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Panel offers safety reminder for early season boating

Spring has sprung with some unseasonably warm temperatures.

With that — plus an early start to trout season — there’s increased traffic on the water early in the season.

According to Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Executive Director Tim Schaeffer, that has already led to three boating fatalities in 2021.

All three occurred on private ponds and in instances where people were not wearing life jackets.

“With winter now well behind us and our popular trout season underway, this is absolutely the most anticipated time of the year for most anglers across Pennsylvania,” he said. “Boaters, especially the incredible number of new paddlers we’ve been seeing on the water the past several years, are also very anxious to get out on the water.

“We want to urge every boater, no matter your level of experience, to enjoy the water safely by always wearing a life jacket during every trip.”

State regulations require a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each individual aboard a boat and children ages 12 and under must always wear a life jacket when underway in any boat 20 feet or less in length including all canoes, kayaks and paddleboards.

While the temperatures are well into the 60s this week, the temperature of the Allegheny River remains just 45 degrees, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Allegheny Reservoir is two degrees colder than that.

This time of year, all boaters regardless of age are required to wear a life jacket while aboard boats under 16 feet in length as well as canoes, kayaks and paddleboards between Nov. 1 and April 30.

“It is heartbreaking to see these tragedies that could have been prevented by simply wearing a life jacket,” Schaeffer said. “We can’t wait to see everyone enjoying the water again this season, but please consider the water temperature, which is still dangerously cold, before heading out on your next adventure.”

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