Lake Ouachita Boating Laws

To report a boating accident, call 1-800-482-9262.

You are prohibited from operating any motorboat or other vessel, or manipulating water skis or other device, while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or both.

Life Jackets:

  • Every boat must have a wearable type life jacket for each person on board.
  • A boat 16 feet or longer must also have at least one throw-able Type IV PFD on board.
  • PFDs of all types must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible.
  • Inside a storage compartment doesn’t count.
  • PFDs must be of the proper sizes for persons wearing them.
  • That means kid-size for children, not adult PFDs for the youngsters on board.
  • Children 12 and younger must wear a PFD on a boat whether it is running or not.
    • Exceptions are inside a houseboat or inside rails on a party barge, cruiser if it is not underway. The fine is $320.00 for each child, 12 or under, not having a PFD on when in a boat on Lake Ouachita.
  • Everyone on a personal watercraft, sometimes called a jet ski, must wear a PFD, and inflatable types don’t qualify here.
  • Everyone being towed on water skis or other device must wear a PFD, and, again, inflatable types don’t qualify.

See The Fishing Tool Set Lake Ouachita Guides Recommend

Arkansas Boating Handbook

  • All boats with motors over 50 horsepower and all personal watercraft must have a minimum of $50,000 liability insurance before operating on the waters of Arkansas.
  • Proof of insurance is required in order to register a boat or renew a registration.
  • Operators must be at least 14 years old to operate a personal watercraft without supervision.
    • Persons 12 and 13 years old may operate with someone at least 18 years on board. Persons under 12 must have someone at least 21 years old on board in a position to take immediate control of the personal watercraft.
  • Boat Operators can not exceed 10 miles per hour within 100 feet of the rear of another boat or personal watercraft and within 50 feet of either side of another boat or personal watercraft.
  • Operating a boat at a greater than no-wake speed within 100 feet of an anchored or moored vessel, shoreline, dock pier, swim float, marked swim area, swimmer, surfer, person engaged in angling or any manually propelled vessel is prohibited.
  • Personal watercraft operators must have an observer 12 years of age or older to tow a skier.
    • Mirrors are not allowed for skiing on personal watercraft. Also the personal watercraft must be able to accommodate the operator, observer and person being towed. Personal watercraft must be designed for a minimum of three persons in order to tow skiers.
  • Personal watercraft cannot be operated from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.
    • Running lights do not exempt personal watercraft from this.
  • The personal watercraft operator is required to wear the engine cut-off lanyard (kill switch) securely attached to his/her person, clothing, or personal flotation device at all times while operating.
  • Becoming airborne while jumping the wake of another vessel while operating a personal watercraft, within 100 feet of that vessel, is prohibited.
  • No person who owns a personal watercraft or who has charge over or control of a personal watercraft may authorize or knowingly permit the personal watercraft to be operated in violation of the personal watercraft law. This applies to a renter, too.
  • Boat marinas must carry a minimum $500,000 in liability coverage.
  • Boat marinas are required to have renters view a state-approved personal watercraft video prior to operating a personal watercraft.

Registering and Insuring a Boat.

  • Boats propelled by sail or motor must be registered when operated on public waters. Arkansas boat owners may register a boat at the office of the county revenue agent in the county where the boat is principally used or in their home county.
  • Boats powered by over 50 hp motors must show proof of $50,000 liability insurance when registering and it must be carried on board at all times. A registration number will be assigned to each registered boat.
  • Out-of-state boats with valid registrations may be operated for up to 90 days without registering in Arkansas.

Wear your life jacket.

Over half of boating fatalities are fishermen who fall out of small boats that capsize from movement within the boat, overloading or hitting a submerged object.

The operator of any boat involved in an accident is required to immediately:

1) Render assistance to other persons affected by the incident to save them or minimize danger so far as he can without serious danger to his own boat, crew and passengers
2) Give his name, address and identification of his boat in writing to any person injured and to the owner of any property damaged in the incident
3) Notify the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or the local Sheriff’s office of the accident so an officer can investigate the accident.

To report a boating accident, call 1-800-482-9262.
Officers will then be dispatched to the scene of the accident.
Accidents involving death, injury or property damage of $500 or more must be reported.

General Boating Regulations

Age Requirements:
Anyone born on or after January 1, 1986 and of legal age to operate a motorboat, must have successfully completed an approved Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Boating Education Course and carry proof while operating a motorboat on Arkansas water.

The law also affects operators of sailboats.

Boat Capacity:

Loading a vessel beyond its stated safe carrying capacity is illegal.

Cutoff Switch (Lanyard):

The boat operator is required to wear the engine cut-off lanyard (kill switch) securely attached to the operator’s clothing, or personal flotation device, while the engine is in use to propel the boat, if the boat is so equipped.


If the motorboat equipped with a lanyard-type switch is a house boat, a pontoon boat, or is traveling less than five (5) miles per hour, the lanyard shall not be required to be attached to the operator’s clothing, or to the operator’s personal flotation device.

This does not apply to flat bottomed boats operated on the tail waters of a trout fishery, nor to flat bottomed boats operated for duck hunting purposes during duck season.

Corps of Engineers Restrictions:

No vessel may enter within 100 yards downstream of a Army Corps of Engineers dam.

Operating a vessel in any manner contrary to signs, markers or buoys placed by the Corps controlling speed, skiing or operation of vessels is prohibited.

Fire Extinguishers:

Required of inboard boats, open boats with built-in fuel tanks and boats with bilges where flammable gases may accumulate.

Boat Lights:

Boats must be equipped with the prescribed lights during darkness. On state controlled waters, light requirement for all boats are the same as for non-powered boats on federal waters.
On federally-controlled waters, non-powered boats must have a readily accessible light source to be used in sufficient time to prevent a collision.
Motorboats operating on federally-controlled waters must have a combination red and green light on the bow and a white light aft.

Law Enforcement:

The boating laws of Arkansas are enforced by:

  • AGFC enforcement officers ( Game Wardens)
  • Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs.
  • State police officers.
  • Parks and Tourism enforcement officers.
  • Municipal police officers.
  • U.S. Coast Guard
    • Officers have the authority to stop and board your vessel in order to check for compliance with state and federal laws.
  • It is illegal to refuse to follow the directive of a person with law enforcement authority. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Learn more.