The boating season has quietly begun with a few diehard fishermen bundling up in winter gear and launching their boats at Horseshoe Bend even before the dock is installed for the season.
“There’s some ice out there, here and there, mostly chunks, but the fish are jumping and there has already been a major Mayfly hatch,” said Lovell Game Warden Jim Hobbs.
The lake is home to catfish, ling, small mouth bass, sauger, walleye and an assortment of other fish, making it a popular year-round recreational area for fishermen, who brave even the coldest months of the year for a good catch.
The dock is in at Barry’s Landing, and Horseshoe Bend will see its own soon. Hobbs said he is already out checking boats for required equipment, which includes life jackets in the proper sizes for all on board, life jackets to be worn by anyone under 12 years old while under way and a fire extinguisher on all craft with enclosed fuel tanks. He noted that Type 4 throwable devices are also required on any craft 16 feet or longer, including canoes, and advised that it is always wise to have at least one paddle on board and a whistle or horn to attract the attention of other boaters in the event of an emergency.
He also noted that he plans to be a little tougher this year and will be issuing fewer warnings and more tickets for safety infractions.
He said some of the most common violations he sees are lack of equipment on board, failure to raise an orange flag when a water skier is down, wake jumping by jet skis too close to other boats and passing too close. He has also seen his fair share of drunken driving on the lake and reminds boaters that anyone impaired will not only receive a citation for DUI but will get their day on the lake interrupted with a free trip to the Big Horn County Jail in Basin.
“It’s just as dangerous to drink and drive a boat as it is to drink and drive any other vehicle,” said Hobbs. “It’s a major safety issue and the cause of many accidents, so expect me to come down hard on anyone caught doing it.”
Hobbs said the state will also be upping its vigilance regarding invasive aquatic species and will have check stations installed at Ports of Entry.
“It’s not really a problem for us yet, but we don’t want to let it become a problem like it is in some states,” said Hobbs of invasive species that hitch a ride on boats from one water body to another.
He reminds boaters that all must have an aquatic species decal and all boats must be checked for invasive species whenever passing a station.
He advises boaters to re-read the regulations every year, if they want to avoid costly citations.
By Patti Carpenter