Fishing With a Boat

Safety Requirements and Tips

See detailed information on boat regulations and required safety equipment.

  • State law requires a wearable-type life jacket (Types I, II, or III) for each person on board. Life jackets must be U.S. Coast Guard approved. In addition, a Type IV throwable-type flotation device is required on boats 16 feet in length and longer. See detailed information on life jacket fit and types.
  • Children under 13 years of age must wear a personal flotation device on a vessel under 26 feet in length while underway. It is recommended that non-swimmers always wear a life jacket on the water.
  • Anyone born on or after September 1, 1993 must complete an approved boater education course before operating in public water a vessel of more than 15 horsepower, a windblown vessel of more than 14 feet in length, or a personal watercraft, unless there is another legally qualified operator on board who is 18 or older.
  • State law prohibits intoxicated persons (.08% BAC) from operating a boat.
  • Check the weather and give a "float plan" to a friend before departing.


  • Distribute and secure your gear properly, and avoid overloading your boat.
  • Use care when moving; keep weight as low as possible and distributed evenly.
  • Remain seated as much as possible to avoid capsizing and falls overboard.
  • Never anchor from the stern of your boat.



  • Secure firearms and ammo low in the boat to increase stability and to avoid falls.
  • Remain seated, if possible, while shooting and retrieving migratory game birds.
  • Assign "shooting zones" for each hunter to avoid shooting accidents.

Each year, over 90% of all sportsmen who died in the water were not wearing a life jacket. Wear your life jacket! The life you save may be your own.

Prevent Spread of Invasive Species

Failure to immediately remove and lawfully dispose of any harmful or potentially harmful aquatic plant that is clinging or attached to a vessel, watercraft, trailer, motor vehicle, or other device used to transport or launch a vessel or watercraft can result in a fine of $25-$500.

Zebra mussels

prevent spread of zebra mussels

In the state’s ongoing effort to combat the spread of invasive zebra mussels, boaters leaving or approaching public fresh water in anywhere in Texas are required to drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles. This applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats, or any other vessel used to travel on public waters. For additional details, see Possession and Transport of Exotic Aquatic Species

Bighead and silver carp

It is unlawful to transport live, non-game fishes from the water bodies listed below. Collection and use of nongame fishes for bait within the same water body is legal. This rule is intended to prevent the unintentional spread of invasive bighead and silver carp.

  • Red River below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border
  • Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake)
  • Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman dam

When you leave a body of water:

  • Remove any visible mud, plants, fish or animals before transporting equipment.
  • Eliminate water from equipment before transporting.
  • Clean and dry anything that comes into contact with water (boats, trailers, equipment, clothing, dogs, etc.).
  • Never release plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water.

For more information on invasive exotic species that threaten Texas waters and how you can help prevent their spread, visit these sites:

Anchoring Boats and Vessels

  • It is a violation to leave unattended for any period of time or anchor a barge, boat, or fishing platform in the Trinity River below Livingston Dam in an area 1,000 feet from the dam to a point 1,500 feet downstream from the dam:
    • for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period without moving 100 feet or more during that time, or
    • for five or more consecutive days, whether or not it has been moved;
  • It is a violation to anchor or moor a vessel, barge, or structure for a period exceeding two consecutive days within the area in Cedar Bayou between a department sign erected where Mesquite Bay flows into Cedar Bayou and the department sign erected near the point where the pass empties in the Gulf of Mexico.

Special Areas and Restrictions

  • It is a violation to move, remove, deface, alter, or destroy any sign, depth marker, or other informational signage placed by the department within, or to delineate boundaries of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.
  • Rio Grande: Portions of the Rio Grande adjacent to the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area are designated as a "Wild and Scenic River." Special federal rules apply to fishing, boating and other uses in these areas. For more information concerning these rules and boundaries, call the Big Bend National Park at (432) 477-2251 (menu 3, option 3).