TMS Blog

Be Prepared for Minnesota Lake Regulations for Your Personal Watercraft

Written by David Glassman

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Summer is just around the corner, and if you’re like many Minnesotans, you’re raring to bring out your personal watercraft and hit as many of the 10,000 lakes our great state has to offer. Whether you’ve got a cabin up North or would rather spend some time in the more recreational lakes near the Twin Cities, your personal watercraft will definitely be getting its hull wet. But what lakes can you tackle with your PWC and what lakes should you be aware of slow-no wake zones? Have no fear, because we’ve compiled the regulations for some of Minnesota’s watercraft hotspots so you can be prepared.

Up North or at the Cabin

So it’s the weekend and the temperatures are reaching for the 70s, maybe even the 80s. Of course you’re going to want to head on up to your cabin or spend some time in the great Minnesotan wilderness we all refer to as “Up North”. You’ve got your PWC loaded up onto the trailer and ready to go. What lakes are there to hit up?

Pelican Lake

Located 7 miles north of Pelican Rapids, this lake is great for boating, fishing, and all around relaxing in nature. If you’re looking for some more water sports activities, you’ll just have to pay attention for any slow-no wake speed areas marked by buoys or signs. As most lakes, Pelican requires all operators and passengers to wear a personal flotation device. Pelican Lake also does not allow for PWCs to jump the wake of other PWCs within 150 feet.

Otter Tail Lake

This lake was known for sailing in the 1960s and mid 1980s, and remains a popular destination for watersports today! Flowing north into the Hudson Bay, Otter Tail Lake’s 13,725 acres are perfect for spending time on your personal watercraft. The county of Otter Tail does request that operators and passengers wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation device and require all PWCs to have a rules decal in full view of the operator. Cut-off lanyards must be properly used and attached to the person, life vest, or clothing of the individual operating the personal watercraft as well. Given its naturesque attributes, Otter Tail County also specifies that those who visit them for watersport activity not chase or harass any wildlife.

Gull Lake

Slightly south of the aforementioned Pelican Lake, Gull Lake spans 14.9 miles, making it one of the largest lakes in the Brainerd/Baxter area. That said, it does have some regulations for you to be aware of. The following channels are slow-no wake speed zones:

  • Between Gull and Upper Gull Lakes at both north and south ends
  • Between Margaret and Upper Gull Lakes
  • The narrows of Upper Gull Lake
  • Between Upper Gull and Ray Lakes
  • On all of Green Lake and the entire channel between Green and Gull Lakes

Big Sandy Lake

Known for its abundance of walleye, Big Sandy is another popular spot for watercraft activities. Being in Aitkin County, it does have marked slow-no wake speed by the Highway 65 bridge. Concerned with pollution and disrupting wildlife, Big Sandy requests all operators be conscious of speed at all times to make less wake, less noise, and reduce pollutants.

Sticking Around the Twin Cities

Sometimes driving hours to Northern Minnesota just isn’t in the cards. When that’s the case, there are plenty of destinations for your personal watercraft to get some use in right around the Mini-Apple! Full of extensive park systems for recreation, you don’t have to go far to have a watersport filled summer. However, let’s not forget that some of your favorite hangouts may have some restrictions for your PWC.

Lake Minnetonka

One of Minnesota’s most enterprising residential areas, Lake Minnetonka is no stranger to boating, sailing, fishing, and of course, personal watercrafts. Being the 9th largest lake in Minnesota, and with its popularity rising, this inland body of water does have more than the usual regulations.

There are speed restrictions of 40 mph during the day and 20 mph at night. The slow-no wake speed is 5 mph and are located in marked quiet water areas, within 150 feet of the shore, docks, people swimming or fishing, designated swim areas, anchored rafts, and other watercrafts.

This lake also has a noise restriction in regards to PWC. No person may operate a personal watercraft manufactured after January 1, 1992 that exceeds a noise level of 79 decibels (80 for all other watercrafts).

White Bear Lake

Residing in the city by the same name, White Bear Lake is the perfect escape that’s not too far out from the cities. There is a maximum speed limit of 35 mph and slow-no wake speed 300 feet from the shore. You may not be any closer than 100 feet from any person in the water or on a raft with a PWC. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of lake to ride!

If you do decide to check out White Bear Lake, stop in our White Bear Lake showroom and say hi! We’ve got you covered for any Sea Doo accessories you may need before taking to the waves!

But What About Other Big Name Lakes Around the State?

You’re probably wondering about the other popular lakes such as Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, Lake Vermilion, and Lake Winnibigosh. They operate under the standard Minnesota Watercraft Regulations set by the DNR. These regulations include:

  • Personal watercrafts must travel at slow-no wake speed (5 mph or less) within 150 feet of the shore, docks, swimmers, swimming rafts, any moored or anchored watercraft or non-motorized watercraft
  • Hours of operation are 9:30 am until sunset
  • Children below the age of 13 may not operate a PCW even with an adult on board

These regulations will keep you safe and able to have fun all summer long with your PWC! You can check out the full Minnesota Lake and River Use Restriction Guide for any additional lakes you may have questions about.

Think you’re ready to look at a new Sea Doo personal watercraft? Check out our online inventory to find the right PWC for you! 
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David Glassman

David Glassman

David Glassman is President of Tousley Motorsports.

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