SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start to summer, and the warmer weather means more folks are getting out their boats for the first time this year.

With all the excitement that comes with boating season, it’s important to be prepared before hitting the water.

“Especially if it’s the first time that you’ve used your boat, to make sure that even before you leave the house, make sure the trailer lights are working, make sure you have all of your equipment on the boat which includes life jackets for the appropriate size for everybody that’s going to be on board,” Iowa Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Stacey Bragg said.

Bragg also said you should have a whistle and fire extinguisher on board. Water levels on the lakes and rivers also need to be kept in mind.

“The water levels are going to fluctuate since we’re kind of coming off of a drought depending if you’re on a lake or on a river. We want to watch for debris. So there should be, you know, everybody should be aware of what might be coming up front, front of the boat on the water.”

Bragg also said folks need to remove all plugs from their boat once they leave a body of water to minimize the spread of invasive species like Zebra Mussels. When you’re out having fun on the water, Bragg says you need to be responsible with your alcohol.

“Party on the waters like party on shore. You know make sure if there’s going to be people drinking alcohol that there is a sober driver to get back to the boat ramps or the beach, or the dock, or wherever you’re going,” Bragg said.

Just this past weekend, a person lost their life in West Lake Okoboji after drowning. In 2022, there were 28 reported boating incidents on Iowa waters with four fatalities. So it’s important to keep safety as the priority.

Those participating in water-related activities are encouraged to remember that just because the weather is warm does not necessarily mean that the water is also warm.

Though technically optional for those born before Dec. 31, 1985 in the state of Nebraska, Nebraska Game and Parks recommends that all those who will engage in boating should take a safety course. The course covers state laws, navigation, safe operation and emergency preparedness. Information on how to take a boating class can be found on the Outdoor Nebraska Website.

The final tip NGP has for boaters is to ensure that their boats are registered and that anyone driving a boat or personal watercraft should be at least 14 years old to comply with Nebraska Boating rules. All boating regulations can be found on the NGP Website.