Boating fatalities down so far in 2013

Poor weather through the first months of the year is one of the reasons Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Enforcement Division bosses have charted a dramatic decline in boating fatalities across the state.

Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne, the LDWF’s Boating Law Administrator, said he believes there’s another factor, the years upon years of a state law that requires young boaters to pass a Safe Boating Course.

The law mandates anyone born after Jan. 1, 1984, to complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-approved boating education course, then carry proof of completion “to operate a motorboat in excess of 10 horsepower.”

“It’s helped cut down on the number of (boating) accidents, at least that’s what we’re seeing as the program gets older and older and we see more than more boaters born after that mandatory date,” Mayne said earlier this year.

That was when the monthly report to the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission showed a decline in boating deaths. Through April, Louisiana had two fatalities on the state’s waterways compared to nine during the same period last year.

And, Mayne said he believes Saturday’s 3rd annual Boating Education Lagniappe Day can make a bigger difference in years to come.

The day is designed around offering the safe boating course to as many as the eight sites around the state will hold.

The course runs 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and successfully completing the course earns that aforementioned Safe Boating Certificate.

At each site — the two in the southeastern parishes are at Cabela’s in Gonzales and Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego — the LDWF will have NASBLA-qualified instructors. The special day offers attendees food, drinks, giveaways and door prizes without a fee.

The only hitch is that anyone interested in taking the course must preregister by calling the LDWF district office nearest the eight sites, or by filling out the form at the department’s website: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/lagniappeday.

There is limited class sizes at some sites.

Mayne said the previous two special days have certified 493 boaters. He said the course covers topics like choosing a boat, hulls, outboards, motors, legal requirements and equipment requirements along with navigation aids, trailering, sailboats, canoeing and personal watercraft (jet skis).

Step Outside, too

Education and participation are the words for Saturday’s 9th annual Step Outside Day running 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area off U.S. 190 near Krotz Springs.

The LDWP, the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are the sponsors for what are hands-on activities for children and adults.

Although open to all, the day targets young and old with special needs.

The schedule has fishing, archery, boating, target and trap shooting, nature photography, bird watching, canoeing, and other activities like turkey and duck calling and information on state and federal turkey trapping techniques, the Louisiana black bear and alligators.

Food and drink will be provided.

There is no fee.

Take the La. 975 exit off U.S. 190 and drive about three miles south to the Sherburne WMA, or, if coming from I-10, take the Whiskey Bay exit, then north on La. 975 about 13 miles to the WMA.

For more information, call the LDWF Opelousas office (337) 948-0255.

Catahoula water

State Waterfowl study leader Larry Reynolds said the annual process of taking water from Catahoula Lake began last week with the goal of reaching the drawdown pool stage sometime around June 30.