West Virginia Boating Regulations

This section contains information on West Virginia Boating Regulations that are in addition to the Federal Requirements covered in the Basic Boating Course. If you have not reviewed the course material, please do so now. All Federal Requirements in the basic boating course apply to West Virginia; this section lists West Virginia Boating Requirements that are above and beyond Federal Requirements.

Age Restrictions:

You must be 15 years of age to operate a Personal Watercraft. Persons less than 12 years of age shall not operate a Personal Watercraft and persons 12 – 14 may only operate with an adult onboard with them.

Boater Education:

Successful completion of a boating safety course became mandatory Jan. 1, 2001, for anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1987.  The Basic Boating Course online will satisfy this requirement.

PWC operators and passengers must wear an approved Type I, II, III or V PFD.

Each person engaged in water skiing or aquaplaning must wear a U. S. Coast Guard approved PFD.

Speed Limits and Reckless Operation:

No vessel shall be operated within West Virginia in a reckless or negligent manner. Examples of reckless or careless operation include:

  • Excessive speed in regulated or congested areas
  • Operating in a manner that may cause an accident
  • Operating in a swimming area with bathers present
  • Towing water skiers where obstructions exist or a fall might cause them to be injured
  • Bow riding or riding on the gunwale or transom where no seating is provided
  • Operation of a personal watercraft which endangers life or property

Navigation Rules:

The State of West Virginia adopts and enforces all Federally mandated boating safety laws.

Every vessel operating in the State of West Virginia shall carry and use safety equipment in accordance with U. S. Coast Guard requirements as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations. Additionally, every vessel shall display the lights and shapes required by the navigation rules. See the Basic Boating Course for these requirements.

Diving and Snorkeling:

Scuba Mask

All divers shall display a free-flying, 12 by 12 inch minimum, white diagonal stripe on a red background divers-down flag in the area in which the diving occurs. Divers shall attempt to stay within 100 feet of the divers-down flag on rivers, inlets and navigation channels.

Boaters should stay at least 100 feet away from a diver-down flag.

Divers shall not, except in case of emergency, display the divers-down flag in an area which would constitute a navigational hazard.

Personal Watercraft:

The Taiga Motors Orca Jet Ski

You must be 15 years of age to operate a Personal Watercraft. Persons less than 12 years of age shall not operate a Personal Watercraft and persons 12 – 14 may only operate with an adult onboard with them.

Each person on a Personal Watercraft (PWC) must wear a Coast Guard approved PFD. Additionally, the operator must wear a lanyard type cut off switch provided by the manufacturer which will shut off the PWC should the operator fall off.

The operator of a Personal Watercraft should operate in a reasonable and prudent manner. This includes being aware of other boats in the operating area, awareness of environmental concerns and respecting the rights of shoreline property owners. The PWC operator should not follow other boats closely and should not jump the wake of other boats.

Water Skiing:

No person shall tow a person on water skis, aquaplane or similar device without an observer aboard or wide-angle rear view mirror.

In addition each person engaged in water skiing or aquaplaning must wear a U. S. Coast Guard approved PFD.

Water skiing is not permitted between the hours of one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.

Environmental Awareness:

Every boater within the state of West Virginia shall not harass wildlife.

Accident Reporting:


Any accident involving death, disappearance or personal injury, or damage greater than $500 must be reported. A “boating accident” includes, but is not limited to, capsizing, collision, foundering, flooding, fire, explosion and the disappearance of a vessel other than by theft. Accidents should be reported immediately. Report accidents to the nearest office of the West Virginia Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission or the West Virginia Marine Patrol.

Boating While Intoxicated:

Is a criminal offense punishable by fines up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year. Causing a death while boating under the influence is a felony punishable by a $1,000 to $3,000 fine and one year imprisonment.


All vessels operated on the waters of West Virginia must be registered and/or numbered in West Virginia, except as follows:

  • Vessels used exclusively on private lakes or ponds
  • Vessels owned by the Federal Government
  • Vessels used exclusively as life boats
  • Non-motor powered vessels
  • Vessels with a current number from another state or country temporarily using West Virginia waters. (Less than 90 consecutive days.)
  • Vessels newly purchased in West Virginia (less than 30 days).

All registrations must be renewed each year as of July 1. Apply for your title and registration with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

In addition, all vessels, except documented vessels and non-motor-powered vessels must be titled in West Virginia.

You will need to know your Hull I.D. number to title and register your boat. If you have a homemade boat, contact the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for a HIN.

Upon registration, you will be issued a certificate of number and a validation decal. The certificate must be on board whenever the boat is used. The boat’s number must be properly displayed as follows on both port and starboard side.

The validation decal must be displayed within six inches of the number on the port side either before or after the numbers.