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Doug Leier: Tips to getting on water sooner than later

Planning and patience are key when boat ramp congestion is cutting into recreation time.

It's best to not pull onto boat ramps until your boat is ready to launch. Checking your boat and equipment first saves time and aggravation. Photo courtesy North Dakota Game and Fish Department

Even with more places to fish, boat and enjoy the water than ever before in North Dakota, the increase in opportunity also means an increase in anglers, boats and personal watercraft.

It’s a unique combination that can lead to isolated problems at boat ramps when

everyone has the same idea: Get on the water sooner rather than later.

The state Game and Fish Department offers these reminders that just might help calm things down when boat ramp congestion is cutting into recreation time.



● When you first arrive, don’t pull onto the ramp until your boat is ready to launch. If you’ve never used the site before, it might be a good idea to first park away from the main access and walk down and observe first-hand the flow of boats and vehicles.

● Next, do as much as you can to ready your boat and equipment prior to approaching the ramp. Remove covers, load equipment, remove tie downs, attach lines and put in drain plug before backing onto the ramp. Some simple little items such as unplugging the lighting and double checking the plug can save some unintended issues.

● When ready, pull in line to launch. Wait your turn. Be courteous. Patience is sometimes easier said than done, but in the grand scheme of a morning, day or weekend on the water, a few extra minutes preparing and waiting will help ensure an enjoyable outing.

● It takes at least two people to efficiently and courteously launch a boat. One to handle the boat and one to take care of the tow vehicle. When the boat is launched move it out of the way as quickly as possible to allow access to the next in line. The other person should be ready to remove the tow vehicle and clear the launch and landing efficiently.


● Don’t block the loading area with your boat until your tow vehicle is ready to load. There’s no reason to back down and wait for the boat to arrive. Courtesy is a two-way street and you wouldn’t want another boat and vehicle blocking your access if you were ready to load out. Likewise, there’s no need to begin unloading gear from the boat into the tow vehicle. Wait until you are clear of the launch area to unload gear.


● As soon as your trailer is in the water, load and secure your boat to the trailer.

● Remove boat and trailer from the water as quickly as possible. Make sure the boat is on the trailer and secure, but there’s no need to reconnect trailer lights or tow straps until the boat is away from the ramp.

● Pull the boat well clear of the ramp and into the parking area to finish securing your boat and unload gear.

● Drain all water and remove all vegetation from your boat and trailer and remember to leave all plugs out while the boat is in transport. Leaving the plug out while in transit is a regulation designed to reduce the likelihood of spreading aquatic nuisance species from one water to another.

If things are not going smoothly, take a deep breath, and offer to help if it will move the process along. In the long run, that will make the day much more enjoyable for everyone waiting to get their boat on or off the water.

Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.

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