There's been a lot of chatter on the message boards about the US Coast
Guard "cracking down" on guides that work on the federally controlled
waterways in the area. Some of the waters that have been in the
spotlight lately are the Mississippi, the St. Croix Rivers and Lake
Vermilion. The law the Coast Guard is enforcing requires vessels for hire to
have the operator obtain an O.U.P.V. license that's issued by the Coast
It's very clear. The guides that haven't gone through the licensing are
very, very unhappy about the law (and it's enforcement as of late) and
the guides that have the license are happy. This means more business
although many are ducking for cover to keep a low profile. Why? Because
they don't want to be targeted as the
"snitch", turning in unlicensed guides. I can't blame them, everyone is
connected in the fishing industry one way or another.
It's time for the guiding industry to stand up and take a lead on
either following the laws or changing them. It's just plain wrong to
feel uncomfortable because of following the law. The people that
should feel uncomfortable are the guides that knowingly shrug off the
law and the people that support this illegal activity!
spoke with Officer John Nay of th CG's St Paul office inquiring the
purpose of this law, his response was "It's all about safety. When
people hire a guide, they expect a certain level of safety." And
safety is what the Coast Guard focuses on. They require a physical, a
background check, random drug testing, CPR and basic first aid
certificates along with a properly equipped vessel which includes boat
About a week ago, I was contacted by the Neil McMillin
the USCG District Staff Officer
from the Eighth Western Rivers Region
. He's been contacting
advertised guides to join in a voluntary boat inspection. The purpose
of these inspections is to help ensure boaters have the proper safety
equipment on board and are complying with the licensing laws. The CG
offers this inspection to anyone that asks for one, not just guides.
It's free. It's voluntary. These inspections are not a "gotcha". They
are set up to increase safety and awareness on our waterways and help
inform boaters and guides of what and how they can become safer boaters
and to come into compliance with our laws if needed. The inspection
information is not passed on to enforcement. Once passing the
inspection, a decal that's good for two years is placed on your boat. I
have one. Neil's attitude was pleasant. He was through in his
inspection and we talked about many how's and why's of boating
regulations. Even though we didn't agree on every point, he offered
points of view that I hadn't thought of before. I encourage all guides to contact Officer McMillin for an appointment.
As professional guides we are the leaders of the industry.
As a friend of mine put it, I'm paraphrasing... no matter if you
are for or against the Coast Guards licensing, with all the talk on the
message boards and in the papers, the ball is in the customer's court to ask for verification of required licenses and insurance.
Whether you're a guide or not, contact Officer McMillin for your free inspection.
District Staff Officer
Vessel Examinations/Program Visitation
Eighth Western Rivers Region