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Patience and understanding are two key personal characteristics that might be needed on any trip to a boat ramp.

Like it or not, we’re heading into July and the peak season for fishing, boating and water recreation. As such, there’s no shortage of reminders for buying a fishing license and making sure you have enough life jackets in your boat.

As we’ve seen the expansion of water across North Dakota, we’ve also seen the number of watercraft registrations swell. More water and more boats, pontoons and personal watercraft, in addition to kayaks, canoes and paddleboards can create congestion on any water. And not just during a hot summer holiday weekend.

And that’s why every year the North Dakota Game and Fish Department also reminds boaters that patience and understanding are two key personal characteristics that might be needed on any random trip to a boat ramp.

The reason is simple, and I witnessed it many times early in my career when I was a game warden at Bottineau and spent a lot of time at Lake Metigoshe, one of the busier waters in the state. On any given day the lineup of boats waiting to get in or out of the water could include veterans who could back up a trailer blindfolded, and others who were driven to high anxiety by the prospect of launching a boat for the first time.

As an example, a colleague recently told me the story of his first boat launch last year, when he forgot to unhook the tie-down straps at the back of the boat and had to pull out of the water after discovering the reason the boat wouldn’t move off the trailer. An experienced husband and wife waiting in line told him not to worry about it, and offered their help if he needed it.

The second attempt went smoothly. Pretty much everyone who’s ever been responsible for backing a boat down the ramp has experienced the same situation. But as a reminder:

When launching ...

● Don't pull onto the ramp until your boat is ready to launch.

● Prepare for launching in the parking area. Remove covers, load equipment, remove tie-downs, attach lines and put in drain plug before backing onto the ramp.

● When ready, pull into line to launch. Wait your turn. Be courteous.

● It takes at least two people to efficiently and courteously launch a boat: one to handle the boat and one to take care of the tow vehicle.

● Offer to help others who look like they may be having trouble.

When loading …

● Don't block the loading area with your boat until your tow vehicle is ready to load. Wait until you are clear of the launch area to unload gear.

● As soon as your trailer is in the water, load and secure your boat to the trailer.

● Remove boat and trailer from the water as quickly as possible.

● Get clear of the ramp. Pull into the parking area to finish securing your boat, unloading gear, draining all water and inspecting for and removing any vegetation. Remember to leave plugs out when transporting boat.

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Doug Leier is a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

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