During the Independence Day holiday weekend and throughout the busy summer boating season, Illinois Conservation Police remind boat operators and passengers to stay sober and wear life jackets while on the water.

“The last week in June was a particularly sad week for our officers,” said Jerry Costello, Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director of Law Enforcement in an official press release. “Illinois Conservation Police were called in to lead or assist in recovery for nearly 10 water- and boat-related fatalities across the state. As we headed into a holiday weekend, where we expect to see increased traffic on our lakes and rivers, these incidents provide a stark reminder of the importance of boating safely.”

Boat operators should check to make sure watercraft have the correct number of personal flotation devices (PFDs) on board, said Costello, adding that Illinois law requires that properly-fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFDs – life jackets or life vests – be available for each person aboard a boat or other watercraft.

State law also requires that anyone under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket while aboard any watercraft under 26 feet in length at all times the boat is underway, unless they are below deck in an enclosed cabin or operating on private property. Illinois law also requires persons of any age to wear a PFD while operating a personal watercraft or Jet Ski.

The IDNR reminds boat owners in Illinois to check their three-year boat registration/decal and renew their registration if it expires in 2019. Renewing watercraft registration can be done online through the IDNR Website at www.dnr.illinois.gov or by phone by calling 1-866-867-3542.

To renew registration, have available the watercraft’s Illinois registration number, the first six characters of the watercraft’s hull ID number, the first three letters of the registered owner’s last name, and a credit card. New or renewed three-year watercraft registrations will expire on Sept. 30 in the calendar year of expiration.

For details on Illinois watercraft registration requirements and fees, check the IDNR Website at https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/boating/Pages/default.aspx. Titling is now optional for all watercraft under 22 feet in length. Unpowered watercraft including canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, or paddle boards are not required to be registered in Illinois and are no longer required to have a Water Usage Stamp.

Bowfishing enthusiasts are invited to the 5th annual Kaskaskia River Rough Fish Roundup bowfishing tournament Saturday, July 13 on the Kaskaskia River at Wood Duck Marina near Baldwin, Illinois. The tournament is hosted by the Kaskaskia River State Fish and Wildlife Area in cooperation with the Bowfishing Association of America. For registration and information, contact Kaskaskia River SFWA by phone at 618-785-2555. For details, find event information on the IDNR Website: https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/calendar/Documents/KaskaskiaRiverRoughFishRoundUp2019Flyer_.pdf

The 2019-2020 Illinois State Parks guide is available in print and online. The booklet is a useful guide to an eventful day in a state park picnic area, a weekend at a state park lodge or campground, a hike in a state forest, a ride on a state trail, or hunting and fishing trips to a state fish and wildlife area.

The Illinois State Parks guide is posted on the IDNR website in PDF format at this link: https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/news/Documents/ILStatePark20192020.pdf Copies of the state parks guide can be ordered through the IDNR online publications page: https://dnr2.illinois.gov/teachkids/

Sam Van Camp writes about outdoor activities every Sunday in the Commercial-News. You can reach him by phone at 662-6559, by fax at 446-6648 or by e-mail at pamnsam@nwcable.net