Marine Division - Frequently Asked Questions

Boating in Idaho FAQs

Q: Can I drink (alcohol) and boat?

A: It is illegal to operate a boat "impaired" by drugs or alcohol. The standards are the same as operating a motor vehicle (0.8 or 0.2 if under 21). Note - Minors can also be cited for "Minor in Possession of Alchol or Drugs."

Q: Are there age limits for operating a boat in Bonner County?

A: Yes - you must be 14 years old to operate a boat with a motor 10 hp or greater without adult supervision (18 years old) on board. Less than 10 hp one must be 10 years old to operate without an adult on board.

Q: Is there a speed limit for boats?

A: Yes - generally 50 mph during the day and 25 mph during the night. There are some exceptions - see the boating laws page

Q: Are there no wake zones?

A: Yes - 200 feet from shore, dock, pier (or other structure) or person in the water.

Boating FAQs form the Bonner County Sheriff

Q: What do I need to do to make my boat "legal" and ready to go?

A: This varies depending on the make, propulsion type and length of your boat. First, make sure your boat is properly titled, registered, and the bow numbers are displayed correctly. Sailboats and motor boats are required to be registered whenever on the water and all registrations expire December 31.

The minimum safety equipment for both powered and non-powered boats includes life jackets and a sounding device. Gas- powered motors require fire extinguishers if there are any closed compartments (even a live well) and fire extinguishers need to say "marine approved" and "approved by the Coast Guard" on the label. Inboard motors need to have a backfire flame arrester.

A good way to be sure you have what you need is to contact the local county sheriff's office or the Coast Guard Auxiliary for a free inspection. An inspection sticker tells others that you care not only about your own crew but about other boaters. Above all, make sure your motor, electrical and fuel systems have been checked out by a mechanic, and that all any fuel spills in the bilge are cleaned up before you go.

Q: Are there special regulations for riding personal watercraft?

A: Personal Watercraft (PWC) are small, jet-propelled boats designed to carry one to three people to sit on top rather than inside a vessel. Often referred to as "jet skis," these watercraft are considered motorboats and are subject to the same regulations as motorboats, including equipment and responsible handling.

In Bonner County an operator of a PWC must 14 years old or have an adult supervisor (18 years old) on board.

Idaho counties have the authority to enact restrictions for personal watercraft that are more strict than state law.

Idaho and PWC manufacturers recommend that all drivers be at least 16 years old, and that all riders wear a helmet, protective shoes and life jacket. 
Special concerns for PWC Operators:

  • There is a countywide no-wake zone. Slow to 5 mph within 200 feet of a dock, structure or person in the water.
  • No wake within 50 feet of another vessel.
  • Wake jumping is restricted. A safe distance is at least 200 feet.
  • Towing a skier or tuber requires a manufacturer's capacity rating for three people. Towing two or more people in a tube is considered “overloading” and is illegal.
  • It takes three to ski. The driver must have a passenger serve as the spotter and operate the skier-down flag.
  • Operating at night is prohibited without the proper combination of lights.
  • Yield the right-of-way to other powerboats and skiers.

Q: Are boaters or rafters required to wear life jackets?

A: Children fourteen and under must wear an approved life jacket when they are aboard a boat 19 feet in length or less whenever the boat is underway or under power. This applies to manually propelled boats such as canoes and rafts in addition to powerboats, sailboats, personal watercraft (jet skis) and fishing float tubes.

Also, the right kind of personal floatation device must be on board the motorboat or paddle craft and within quick reach for adults. That is, they must say "Coast Guard Approved" on the label, be the right fit for the person on board, be the kind you wear (not a cushion or ring buoy) and in like new condition. Stored under the seat or in a dry bag is not considered within quick reach.

Q: Where do I get information about permits to build a private dock on a public waterway?

A: For information and permits to place or maintain docks, buoys, or anything else on the public waterway contact the Idaho Department of Lands, Navigable Waters Section, 2550 Hwy 2, Sandpoint, ID 83864 or telephone (208) 263-5104.

Idaho Boat Inspection Report

Why we do boat inspections

It is the policy of the state of Idaho to improve boating safety, to foster the greater development, use and enjoyment of the waters of this state by watercraft and to adopt certain standards for the safe operation and equipment of vessels. "Idaho Safe Boating Act." http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/Title67/T67CH70.htm

The sheriffs and deputy sheriffs of the respective counties are primarily responsible for the enforcement of the “Safe Boating Act” and in the exercise of their authority may stop and board any vessel subject to law.

The primary tool used by the sheriffs in the exercise of their responsibilities is the “Idaho Boat Inspection Report” http://images.bimedia.net/documents/Idaho+boat+inspection+report.pdf .

The report consists of three sections, contact information, registration and carry law compliance and contact observation notes. Inspections are used to generate various safety and compliance statistics, while at the same time educating the public as to registration and safety equipment requirements.

Idaho Invasive Species Law

Idaho law states that any motorized or non-motorized boat operating in Idaho is required to display an Invasive Species Fund (ISF) sticker. When you purchase and display an ISF sticker, you contribute to a fund that provides vessel inspections, washing stations and informational materials that will assist Idaho with preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species like quagga mussels.

For Frequently Asked Questions and other information about the Invasive Species Program, please visit the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

Purchase Invasive Species Fund Stickers

Boaters can purchase ISF stickers on-line, by mail, at any Idaho State Park or at specific vendors.

Did You Know?

Boats registered in Idaho do not have to purchase an additional Idaho Invasive Species Fund sticker. Your contribution to the ISF has been included in your annual registration fees for your convenience.

Invasive Species Sticker Assistance: 1-208-334-4197 (M-F 8am to 5pm MST)
Invasive Species Sticker

Renewing your boat registration?

You'll need the PIN and sticker number from your renewal form.
Renew Your Registration


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Bonner County Sheriff’s Office
4001 N. Boyer Road
Sandpoint , ID 83864

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(208) 263-8417 Fax (208) 265-4378
E-mail: bonnersheriff@bonnerso.org

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