The Fourth of July weekend is traditionally one of the busiest boater weekends of the year, right up there with Memorial Day and Labor Day.
If you go to one of Ohio’s play lakes – like Indian, Caesar Creek or Grand Lake St. Marys, you will see water skiers, jet skiers, speedboats and pontoons buzzing about here, there and all over the place.
There are so many boats out there, churning up the water, making it rough and muddy that you can forget about fishing. In fact, if you want to fish this coming weekend, I suggest you go to a lake where the speed is restricted, places like Lake Loramie, Cowan or Acton Lakes. Or if you want a very quiet place fish, try Kiser Lake because there are no motors of any kind allowed.
I remember my days as a teenager (yes, it was quite some time ago), working at a boat landing/restaurant/bait shop/gas station on Indian Lake. Of course the July 4th weekend was something very different in those days at Indian Lake. That was the time of the infamous “riots” at Russells Point. For a few years in a row it was a gathering spot for college students with lots of beer flowing. For some, it was spring break revisited. And, yes, it got out of hand.
Even without the riots, the July 4th weekend was super busy at the eateries and marinas around the lake. I remember it was also a bit of a dangerous time, because with all those people and all those boats there was a bunch of beer being consumed. That’s a bad mix.
I’m sure this goes on at lakes all over Ohio and the rest of the nation. But there is a concerted effort by law enforcement called Operation Dry Water. Officially, it took place last weekend all over the country.
The idea is to increase awareness of the problem of boating under the influence (BUI) of drugs or alcohol. I think it was sort of a dress rehearsal for the coming busy, busy weekend.
It includeds increased patrols, breathalyzer tests and checkpoints as well as boater education. Last year during the three-day Operation Dry Water, Division of Watercraft officers contacted boaters on 456 vessels and made 10 arrests for BUI. In Ohio, boaters whose blood alcohol content level exceeds the state limit of .08 will be charged.
“Consuming alcohol on a boat can have serious, and even deadly, consequences,” said Gary Obermiller, chief of the Ohio Division of Watercraft. “It is critical for drivers and passengers to stay sober and stay safe at all times while boating.”
To me, it seems rather simple. If you plan to drink beer over the Fourth, don’t drive a car or a boat. Hand the keys to both to someone drinking iced tea or soft drinks before you pop open a cold one. Unfortunately there are too many who think they can “handle a few beers” and stay in control.
That’s why there is an Operation Dry Water.
For more information, visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.