New Texas Boating Laws


Gone Fishing

To properly kick off Summer 2011, I know many of you will do it by taking to the lake.

Before you hit the water, you should know that your Texas Legislature has recently (as in, over the past couple of weeks) passed new laws specifically for boaters.

Castle Boat

As we discussed in our Can I Carry a Handgun? blog, carrying a handgun in your motor vehicle isn’t illegal if you meet the simple requirements.  If you’re lost, then it’s because you didn’t read last week, so go do that now.

When you return, you’ll be happy to know that HB 0025, which allows the same handgun carrying requirements to “watercraft,”  has been signed into law, but you’ll be disappointed that it doesn’t go into effect until September 1, 2011.

—See Unlawful Carrying Weapons—Tex. Penal Code § 46.02

Wearable Life Preserver

HB 0308 has been signed into law and is effective immediately.  It requires your motorboat to carry at least one “wearable personal flotation device” per person.

—See Live Preserving Devices—Tex. Parks & Wild. Code §31.066

Fishing License Exemption

HB 0550 has been signed into law and is effective immediately.  It provides an exemption for the necessity of a fishing license for a resident whose birth date is before January 31, 1931.

—See Exemptions—Tex. Parks & Wild. Code §46.002

Jet-Skiing 13 year-olds

HB 1395 has been signed into law and is effective immediately.  It reduces the minimum age for operating a “personal watercraft,” from 16 years old to 13 years old.

—See Personal Watercraft—Tex. Parks & Wild. Code §31.106

Previously, even persons 16 years of age had to have completed a boating safety course, but it appears that the new law has removed that provision for 13 year-olds.  It also provides guidelines for the operation of a personal watercraft for persons under the age of 13.

Boating in Circles

HB 0596 has been signed into law and is effective immediately.  The old law prohibited boating in a circular course around fishermen or swimmers.

—See Prohibition on Circular Course Around Individuals Engaged in Water Activities—Tex. Parks & Wild. Code §31.099

The new law adds a prohibition on operating a personal watercraft, in addition to boats, in that circular course.  It also adds a prohibition on the circular course around “waterskiing or a similar activity.”

However, it does carve out an exception for making a circle to retrieve a downed or fallen water-skier, or person engaged in similar activity.


This is far from an exhaustive list on the new boating laws, and there are others that directly address safety and even one regarding boating accidents.  Stay safe out there on the water and as always, use a little common sense.

If you have more questions about new legislation or you’ve been cited for a boating offense, please call your attorney because no website or blog, even this one, is a replacement for individual legal counseling.

–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,


Matthew Harris Law, PLLC  – Criminal Law Division

1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309

Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479

[email protected]