Illinois has a limited number of lakes and many are crowded. Very simply, we have to share and cooperate for this to work. Very few have unrestricted engine sizes and most have limited horsepower ratings.
Those that do not have congestion issues that can cause conflicts between boaters, tournament anglers and regular weekend anglers compete for the same ramps, parking and room on the lake. It is up to all groups to cooperate and jointly use the resource equally.
No one has priority even with IDNR permits on fishing locations. Tournament anglers do not have priority, but neither do weekenders. We have to share the water. Add recreational boaters and the chances of altercations can increase, especially in the warmer months.
The IDNR has aided the process by managing tournament permits. Permits have to be applied for and a number of boats designated for each permit.
For instance, Clinton Lake has a limit of 80 boats. That is total for one or multiple events on any given day. That allows non-tournament anglers ample space both on the lake and in parking lots. It can still mean crowded conditions and it is incumbent on everyone using the water to have patience and respect for others.
Conflict on the water or at the ramp never turns out well and it’s always best to understand and aid others than to yell at them. Experienced boaters can really help those who are not as experienced and under stress in crowded conditions. The same is true on the water.
It is amazing how getting in line and working together can speed up the process. I can’t tell you how many times I have backed people in or aided them in loading their boats. I actually enjoy it and it can make your day if a smile is used. One good turn can deserve another.
Smaller lakes do have the same problems, but generally it seems to be a bit more laid back. Not sure if I have a good reason for that, but local lakes such as Evergreen, Bloomington and Dawson just don’t seem to have the conflicts Clinton or Shelbyville do on occasion. Could be the numbers of people using them at any given time and slower speeds.
Etiquette on the water and in the parking lots mean not cutting people off and discussing fishing locations on the water. Positive communication between anglers and boaters not only makes things run smoother, but is part of safety on the water.
With crowded conditions comes the opportunity for more accidents and heated exchanges. As the weather gets better more folks hit the water and there are some simple rules that may help at the ramp:
1. Prepare the boat before you get to the ramp. If you have things to add, add them away from the ramp and before you go back down the ramp. The same is true unloading after the trip. Most ramps have areas designated for preparation. If you are inexperienced backing down the trailer, ask for help.
2. Make sure you have Coast Guard-approved life jackets for everyone in the boat and wear them when the boat is underway. Fire extinguishers, a horn or whistle and a throwable cushion with 50 feet of rope are mandatory no matter the boat. Make sure they are accessible and those in the boat know where they are stowed. Use the engine kill switch by attaching it to your life jacket when operating the boat.
3. Alcohol on the water is a bad combination. It is unlawful to operate a boat impaired.
4. Operate your boat at a safe speed depending on traffic. Wear glasses while operating the boat to protect your eyes.
5. Be careful around docks and ramps. They can be slippery and typically can have sharp objects on them. A large percentage of accidents on or near the water occur on docks and ramps.
6. Always take your cell phone on the water. A water-tight case is good for it and other valuables such as wallets, rings and watches.
Boating season is just around the corner. Be prepared for the unexpected and most of all, respect each other on the water. Let’s make this season accident free!
On Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be a Boaters Safety Course at Davis Lodge at Lake Bloomington taught by certified instructor Jerry Martoglio. Lunch will be served and it is sponsored by the McLean County Sportsmen. Contact Jerry at 309-826-0930 for details.