Bobby Peoples

Our country has always been a country of law and order. There once was deep-seated respect for the laws, whatever those laws were trying to control or enforce. However, that respect for our laws has slowly weakened in many areas in recent times.

Nowhere is that more apparent to me than the laws regarding boating. I get numerous emails about boaters or jet skis not obeying existing boating laws. Most of those incidences indicate that the boat or jet ski operator does not know, understand, or they willingly decide to recklessly break the law.  

Recent boating accidents on Lake Oconee and Lake Oconee resulted in serious injuries to young people. In one accident, two pontoon boats approached each other while going in the opposite direction. Apparently, the pontoon operators were not sure about the rules of the road when the two boats approached each other on a curve.  

That accident resulted in a young girl being seriously injured when one of the pontoon boats crossed the tow line pulling a tube on the second pontoon and pulled the young girl into the propeller, causing serious injury. 

In the second accident, two jet skis collided resulting in injuries to another young lady. Both accidents remain under investigation.

Over the July Fourth holiday weekend, there were three BUIs issued at Lake Oconee and one BUI issued at Lake Sinclair. One boating accident occurred at Lake Sinclair when someone tossed a sparkler into a box of fireworks on a pontoon boat that resulted in three people being injured and receiving burns. Overall, I guess it was not a bad holiday weekend on either lake.  

As an angler, I am saddened to see the actions of some anglers in their fishing boats who disregard laws and the rights of property owners in their pursuit to catch fish. This is certainly not an indictment of all anglers because many anglers I know are very considerate and respectful of the law and for the rights of property owners. However, a few bad apples can create problems for everyone.   

When you have a seemingly greater disregard for boating laws, the result can be tragic accidents with injuries, fatalities, and can also result in unhappy lake property owners. Our lakes are getting more crowded each year. Even if all boaters respect the law and the property of others, some accidents will still occur, but when individuals break boating laws, the likelihood of serious accidents and misunderstandings increases.

As the lakes became more crowded, boating activities have begun to take place in coves, near docks and near swimming areas. Laws were enacted to protect other boaters, swimmers and property owners as the lakes became more crowded.

The most violated Georgia boating law in my estimation is the 100-foot rule. I dare say if you surveyed boaters and jet ski operators on lakes Oconee or Sinclair, the majority of those boaters both pleasure boaters, anglers and jet ski operators, would be unable to explain the 100-foot rule. That law applies to all boaters and that includes jet skis.

The 100-foot rule simply says that you cannot operate a boat or jet ski at anything but idle speed if you are within 100 feet of a dock, shoreline, another boat, or swimmers in the water. The one area where boaters and landowners come into conflict most often is when boats and jet skis are operated at other than idle speed within 100-feet of a property owner’s dock or shoreline.

Many coves where property owner’s homes and docks are located are hardly 100-feet wide. The cove where my home is located is not 200-feet wide for two-thirds of its length but I have seen boaters and jet skis operated at full speed even to the back of the cove where it is not 20 feet wide. 

If you are planning to be on area lakes during this summer season or at any other time, do yourself and others a favor — know and obey the law. That way everyone can have an enjoyable boating and fishing experience. 

See you next week.

Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be contacted via e-mail at

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