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Michigan boat owners are reminded to renew their watercraft registrations

boat in the water
In addition to boat registration, owners should also make sure their vessel is properly prepared before taking it on the water to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species. (Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
  • Michigan boat owners may need to renew their watercraft registration, which is valid for three years 
  • Boat owners who fail to properly register their boats can face a civil fine up to $500 
  • Boats should also be cleaned and properly ‘dewintered’ to prevent the spread of invasive species

The return of 70-degree weather this week signals the start of boating season for many Michiganders, but before heading out, some boat owners will need to register their watercraft or renew existing registrations.

The registration lasts for three years and doesn't expire until March 31 of the third year.


Residents can register their watercraft through the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, either online, by mail, at a self-service station or by scheduling an in-person visit. Residents must also provide their license or ID and proof of ownership.


Boat owners must register watercraft that are at least 20 feet long and have an inboard motor, according to the Department of State. Registration fees vary depending on the size of the watercraft. 

State law requires boat owners to obtain a decal for a watercraft and failure to do so can result in a civil fine of up to $500. 

For most of southern Michigan, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects temperatures in the mid and high 70s throughout the week, while mid-Michigan will experience temperatures in the low to mid-70s, and temperatures in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula will range from mid-50s to mid-60s.

Mike Briskey, owner of Luna Pier Harbor Club, said he opened his marina on April 15 for those eager fishermen who like to get out early. 

“As soon as the weather cracks, they're ready to go,” Briskey said. “They’ll throw their deer hunting clothes out and go, especially the real avid ones, they're willing to go sooner.” 

Before heading out

Boaters should also allocate enough time before going into water to properly “dewinter” their boat for safety reasons and to help decrease the disturbances to aquatic life. 


“Getting winter covers off is (the) first job,” Briskey said. Boat owners also have to air the boat out, charge the batteries and change the oil before doing a “sea check,” or taking the boat a short distance into the water to make sure everything is running properly, he added. 

“Then once they're sure everything's ready to go, they'll bring their equipment on the boat.”

Boat owners should inspect their vessel before and after each use and remove debris and other dirt from the vessel. Wells, bilges and other equipment should be cleaned at the site to prevent the spread of harmful and invasive aquatic plants and animals.

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