POWHATAN, AR (KAIT) – Officials with the Lake Charles State Park told Region 8 News Friday boaters need to be careful on waterways across the state as the temperatures start to rise. According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, 17 people died in boating accidents in 2009. Thirteen of those were due to the victim not wearing a life jacket.
"You get a lot of people out here. They don't have the adequate training. Another thing to is every boat is going to be different. I mean, you know, different makes and models and somebody will get in one and assume they know how to operate it," said Jeff Shell, Park Ranger.
Shell said Lake Charles is mostly a fishing lake. Personal watercrafts such as jet skis are not allowed.
"It gets pretty busy, especially when the fish start biting, it will be packed," said Shell. "You'll have people that are going to their little spots here and there. Anyway, when they're going back and forth, that's probably when you're going to have problems because you have some that are stationary and then you have somebody running in and they're paying attention to one thing and there's another boat coming from another way."
Shell said before any boater gets on the water, they need to know Arkansas' laws on boating and know their responsibilities. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offers a handbook on boating laws and responsibilities.
"You have to slow down and watch if you want to stay safe," said Shell. "You need to be able to do multiple things at the same time. You need to be able to control your boat as far as the motor. You have to make sure that you're watching the water, you know, wind can change, all that stuff, lots of variables."
Arkansas Game and Fish said there were 96 boating incidents reported in 2009, which is the lowest ratio of cases in recent years.
"The lake was basically made and filled in this area where there are lots of trees and stuff that were there before the lake was. What they've done is pretty much petrified under the water and now it's like hitting solid rock," said Shell. "You've got all these obstacles that might be and the lake depth varies from time to time, you have some that are this steep under the water, you have some that are three feet."
Shell said boaters have to watch out for submerged tree stumps at Lake Charles.
"A lot of people have the illusion because the water is flat that underneath the water would be flat so they don't understand that it's just like on the bank where you see hills and valleys, it's going to do the same thing under the water," said Shell. "You've got some people that have a boat that will go 60-70 miles an hour, you have some that will only go 30, and all of them are competing for basically the same places out here."