MI DNR PUBLISHES FISHERIES REPORT 37 -Wake boats: concerns and recommendations related to natural resource management in Michigan waters

By September 20, 2022 News

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) recently published Fisheries Division Fisheries Report 37 entitled Wake boats: concerns and recommendations related to natural resource management in Michigan waters.

The operation of wake boats in a manner that creates large waves and increases bottom scour is an emerging threat to natural resources in inland lakes. Wake boats can produce waves with 1.7–17 times the energy of other comparable-sized powerboats and their propellers generate enough turbulence to resuspend bottom sediments in water up to 33 feet deep. The large waves generated by wake boats take between 225–950 feet to dissipate to heights and wave energies observed 100–200 feet away from similar boats operating at cruising speed. Further, the use of ballast tanks in wake boats results in a dramatic increase in risk for transporting Dreissenid mussels and other aquatic invasive species and pathogens among water bodies. The cumulative negative effects of wake boats on natural resources can lead to loss of habitat, resulting in the decline of aquatic ecosystems and angling opportunity. Michigan’s current boating laws and regulations are intended to both promote public safety and prevent damage to aquatic resources but were created prior to the commercialization and popularization of wake boats in the early 2000s. As a result of the large waves and increased scour caused by these vessels, the existing 100-foot operating buffers around docks and shorelines on inland lakes are not sufficient to protect aquatic resources. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division (Division) recommends the following to minimize the effects of wake surfing and wake boarding on natural resources: 1. Boats operating in wake-surfing mode or wake-boarding mode, during which boat speed, wave shapers, and/or ballast are used to increase wave height, should operate at least 500 feet from docks or the shoreline, regardless of water depth. 2. Boats operating in wake-surfing or wake-boarding modes should operate in water at least 15 feet deep. 3. Ballast tanks should be completely drained prior to transporting the watercraft over land. 4. Regulatory authorities and the boating industry should implement an increased education and outreach campaign that targets wake boat operators to improve awareness and implementation of the best practices listed above.

To download and read MDNR Fisheries Division Fisheries Report 37 – click here