We recently came across a blog from Texas kayak angler Chris Payne regarding paddling laws and requirements. While these are state specific, they are still similar to what you find in other states. To be sure about the laws that apply to you, we encourage you to visit your state’s parks and wildlife department’s website.
In the state of Texas, you don’t have to register your kayak in most cases. If it has a motor, trolling or otherwise yes, but in most cases no. Here is how it reads:
The following vessels when on Texas public water are required to have current registration, including when docked, moored, or stored:
- All motorized boats, regardless of length;
- All sailboats 14 feet in length or longer or any sailboat with an auxiliary engine(s); and
- USCG Documented vessels (New — see section below).
- Exempted vessels — Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, punts, rowboats, or rubber rafts (regardless of length) when paddled, poled, or oared and sailboats under 14 feet in length when windblown. Adding an outboard or trolling motor to one of these types requires titling and registration.
- An exempt boat may have previously been titled as a motorboat. You can check whether a title has been issued for free – Query Ownership
This is great news! Slow down there buddy. Just because you don’t have to register your boat (as long as you meet the above criteria) doesn’t mean you can stroll down to Austin Canoe & Kayak, pick a boat and paddle and be on the Colorado River before sunset. There are some other things to look at within the laws.
Just to get on the water, you need to read this:
All vessels, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or V wearable PFD for each person on board. A Type V PFD is acceptable only if used in accordance with the specific instructions on the label of the device. Need some help picking one out? Click here. And if you want a direct link to a recommended manufacturer? You should check out Astral Buoyancy. PFDs are what they do. American designed products for the roughest waters in the world. If you need to float, you need an Astral.
If you are going to paddle at night:
Remember that you must carry one bright white light that can be exhibited in time to prevent a collision. It is recommended that you carry a lantern, flashlight, or other attached white light that will be visible from 360 degrees. Regulations state that canoes, kayaks, and all other manually driven vessels shall exhibit sidelights and a stern light, and shall exhibit at least one bright light, lantern, or flashlight from sunset to sunrise when not at dock.
Need some help? For the absolute best you need to look at the YakAttack Light. You can find it here with a Ram Mount. It also has a hi-vis flag so people will see you during the day as well.
A general warning to have your safety items:
Operating Vessels without Required Equipment is Prohibited – No person may operate or give permission for the operation of a vessel that is not provided with the required safety equipment. An operator may not permit a person under the age of 13 to be on board the vessel while the vessel is underway if the person is not wearing a USCG approved wearable PFD. Marine enforcement officers regularly perform vessel safety checks to ensure the safety of boat owners and passengers.
One more thing you will need by law:
Any vessel less than 12 meters in length (39.4 ft.) is required to carry a whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound to signal intentions and position in periods of reduced visibility. As you are thinking about total purchase price, a weekend trip down the Guad or just a play day at the lake, make sure you have a PFD (life jacket), whistle and if paddling at night, a 360 light.
Stay safe, not only will it save you money but it might save your life!
About the author:
Chris Payne is an avid kayak fisherman from Temple, TX. Paddling since 2003, he is spreading his adventures, foibles and knowledge to those who have a couple of minutes to read a post or two. Chris loves to talk kayaking with anyone who wants to share stories, learn more about kayak fishing or just chew the fat. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.