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Safety and Boating Tips

DGIF has responsibility for water safety and fishing regulations throughout the Commonwealth. Localities supplement the work of the game wardens with local law enforcement to address concerns outside boating and fishing violations. In tidal waters, the Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC) has jurisdiction for boater safety and.

Virginia fishing and boating regulations may be found at www.dgif.virginia.gov. Water safety planning issues are important for all recreational access. Safety factors vary with each resource, but typically include:

River traffic patterns - Recreation boaters and sportsmen should give special consideration to commercial boat traffic. Planners of water access need to consider the needs of recreational motorized and non-motorized traffic and ultimate river traffic patterns when planning facilities.

River hazards - Natural river hazards such as dams and underwater obstructions need to be identified and accommodations made for safe portages.

Tidal changes and winds - In planning boating facilities, tidal changes must be accommodated in the facility design. The presence of winds and tides varies with resources, but should always be considered during design and water trail trip planning.

Non-motorized boating safety tips

  • Check Marine Forecast and weather before paddling.
  • Know Current Conditions (Tides, winds and temperatures)
  • Use Caution in Open Water - Stay close to shore - Thunderstorms and lightning in summer months may approach fast. Canoes are not recommended on open water trails.
  • Bridges - Use extreme caution. Currents may be very swift and watch for fishing lines.
  • Boats - Watch for motorboats and other watercraft. Stay to right and turn the bow (front) into the wake.
  • Trip Length - Allow at least two miles per hour paddling time under normal conditions and check the tides to allow more time if paddling against a tide.
  • Planning -Leave a trip plan. Let someone know your plans, where you are going, who is with you and when you plan to get back.
  • Drinking Water - Bring at least 1 gallon per person per day.
  • Food - Bring food and gear in watertight containers tied to your watercraft.
  • Secure your car before you leave. Secure your car keys.
  • Hypothermia - warning signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, lack of coordination and poor concentration. Get victim into a shelter and remove wet clothes. Give fluids and food until warmed. Hypothermia can occur in summer with wind and rain.
  • Paddle in a group or with a buddy. Last boat should be the most experienced paddler.

Note: DGIF boat access facilities are provided for boating and fishing only. Any other activity is prohibited and considered trespassing.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries - Boating

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries - Fishing

Leave a trip plan. For a sample float plan