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All Motorboat operators in Indiana must have a valid driver’s license to operate on all public waters. Operators who are at least 15 years of age and don’t have a driver’s license may operate a motor vessel if they take a NASBL approved boater education course and have an I.D. Card issued by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).

Persons less than 15 years of age shall not operate a Personal Watercraft.


Boats less than 16 feet long, and a canoe or kayak of any length, must have onboard a U.S.C.G. approved PFD for everyone onboard.

Boats 16 feet and longer must have wearable PFDs for everyone onboard PLUS at least one throwable (Type IV) PFD.

Personal Watercraft operators and passengers must wear an approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD.


Required PFDs must be readily accessible.


Reckless operation of a boat, when a boat is operated carelessly in willful disregard of the rights, safety, or property of others, is a crime in Indiana. Examples of reckless operation include:

  • Excessive speed in regulated or congested areas or during times of restricted visibility

  • Operating in a manner that may cause an accident

  • Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs

  • Operating in a swimming area with bathers present

  • Towing water skiers where obstructions exist or a fall might cause them to be injured

  • Bow riding or riding on the gunwale or transom where no seating is provided

  • Operation of a personal watercraft which endangers life or property


No person shall operate any powercraft without a muffler, underwater exhaust, or other device that muffles or suppresses the sound of the exhaust at all speeds.


All divers must display a white diagonal stripe on a red background divers-down flag in the area in which the diving occurs. Divers shall attempt to stay within 100 feet of the divers-down flag.

Boaters should stay at least 150 feet away from a diver-down flag and operate with caution in the area.


Persons less than 15 years of age shall not operate a Personal Watercraft. Each person on a Personal Watercraft (PWC) must wear a Coast guard approved PFD. Additionally, the operator must wear a lanyard type cut off switch provided by the manufacturer which will shut off the PWC should the operator fall off. A PWC is a boat and operators of PWCs must obey all boating regulations and requirements. The operator of a Personal Watercraft should operate in a reasonable and prudent manner.

When operating a PWC, DO NOT:

  • weave through congested traffic

  • follow a watercraft that is towing other individuals

  • jump the wake of another watercraft

  • cut between a boat and an individual being towed

  • cross paths with another watercraft when vision is obstructed

  • steer toward an object or person in the water and turn sharply at close range


Do not operate a personal watercraft at night.


PWCs may be used to tow skiers/tubes if the PWC is designed to seat at least three people and is at least 10 feet long.


Also, a person other than the operator must be onboard as an observer.


No person shall tow a person on water skis, tube, or similar device without an observer (in addition to the boat operator) aboard to observe the skier and the towline. Water skiing/tubing is not permitted between after sunset and before sunrise.


It is unlawful to litter in Indiana state waters. You should properly dispose of your litter on shore.

In Indiana, the discharge of sewage from marine toilets is prohibited on all public waters. A boat equipped with a toilet must have a holding tank to store the waste that can later be disposed of at a shore-side facility. A free shore-side facility is available at the DNR boat ramp on Wawasee Lake. The boat may use a treatment system as long as it is approved by the Department of Environmental Management.

What can I do to help prevent the spread of Zebra Mussels?

  • Inspect boat and trailer for weeds and remove. Zebra mussels are often found on aquatic plants.

  • Flush the cooling system, bilge areas, and live wells with tap water and discard all bait that may have contacted infested waters.

  • Let your boat dry out of the water for 10-14 days. If visibly fouled by algae wash the hull with hot water (140 degrees F), which kills zebra mussels. High-pressure spray will also help remove them.


Any accident involving death, disappearance or personal injury, or damage greater than $200 must be reported within 48 hours to the Department of Natural Resources.


Operating a boat under the influence of intoxicants is against the law. By operating on Indiana waterways, you are deemed to have given consent to chemical testing if arrested for operating under the influence. Refusal to submit to a test may result in loss of operating privileges for one year.


Boats under way between sunset and sunrise must display a green bow light on the starboard (right) and red bow light on the port (left), as well as an “all around” (visible from 360 degrees) white light on the stern. Boats at anchor must display one all around white light visible to any approaching crafts. Rowboats or paddleboats must have an all around white light ready to display in time to prevent collision.


No skiing, or any other activity requiring speeds in excess of 10 MPH may be engaged in between the official time of sunset and sunrise.


It is unlawful to operate a motorized boat closer than 200 feet from the shoreline, unless coming or going from the shore; also to operate at greater than idle speed closer than 200 feet from shore.


All motorboats operated on the waters of Indiana must be registered and numbered. Motorboats legally registered in another state can be used in Indiana for 60 consecutive days before an Indiana registration is required.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles handles the application for registration and fees are based upon the length of the boat. The BMV issues a certificate of registration and 2 decals indicating the class of your boat and the month and year of expiration.

You must carry the registration certificate onboard when underway.

A watercraft that is required to be registered in Indiana must have a certificate of title, except for the following:

  • A watercraft acquired by its owner before 1/1/86

  • A watercraft that is less than $3,000 in value when new

  • A home-built watercraft

Although these are excepted, you may want to title your watercraft as it verifies ownership, in case the boat was stolen.

The number on your registration certificate must be attached or painted on each side of the forward half of the vessel where it can be easily read. The numbers and letters must be 3″ in height, vertical, plain block characters in contrast to the hull color. The decals are placed to the right of, and within 3″ of the registration numbers. Only the current decals shall be displayed.

Indiana and federal boating laws are presented in a summarized form. The laws in their entirety can be found by consulting Indiana State Law. These laws are subject to change. it is the responsibility of the operator to be aware of the most current laws when using a boat.

Certain bodies of water in Indiana have local restrictions as to type and size of watercraft or motor horsepower, restricted use areas, boat speed, and times for use. Check with the local authorities for these additional restrictions.

For more information:
Department of Natural Resources
402 West Washington St.
Room W225D
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 232-4010

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