Boating? Don’t forget your stickers

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About a month ago I towed my 12-foot fishing boat to the FWP Region One headquarters on Meridian in Kalispell for an AIS inspection.

A friend had told me that an inspection at that venue sufficed in the event I decided to fish for perch in East Bay on Flathead Lake.

Made more sense than driving to Pablo for an inspection.

In any event, I never did go to East Bay, but after checking my boat, the inspector told me I needed a new three-year boat validation sticker.

Well, the night before I’d been looking on for something else and I noticed a story reminding boaters to get new stickers.

My on-line attempt (stickers were mailed) for a new sticker worked flawlessly for the fishing boat, but the website could not recognize my 17-foot Lund, even when I typed in the boat number and HIN.

Long story short, I returned to the FWP office a few days later and they handed me the required chartreuse stickers.

Lately I’ve seen quite a few boats without the new stickers. Without reminders from FWP, it’s easy to forget that new stickers are required.

Two weeks ago, when I passed through the AIS inspection east of Troy, I was told a local warden had been issuing warnings for not having the new stickers and had also issued a $90 fine.

All this “gotta-have-free-stickers-every-three-years” stuff started with a federal law in 2003 that could withhold federal monies for boating enforcement and safety education to states that registered boats for periods longer than three years.

When Montana went to a permanent boat registration system, those funds were threatened.

Montana boaters who take their boats out of state after their three-year boat validation stickers expire are violating federal statutes.

Anyway, here’s the drill: All motorboats, sailboats and personal watercraft that have Montana state registration numbers must also display two boat validation decals.

Boat validation decals are free, available on-line and at FWP offices.

The new stickers expire 2/28/2020.

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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