Maine Game Warden Jonathan Parker encountered more than a dozen people Friday on Nicatous Lake in Hancock County as part of Operation Dry Water, a national program to curtail drunken boating on the nation’s waterways.
“They were in kayaks, canoes, small water boats and one large pontoon boat,” Parker said Saturday. “Everybody was behaving themselves and abiding the law.”
He gave out no citations Friday but checked to make sure people’s boats were registered, they had life jackets for every person on board, had a fishing license with them and, of course, were not impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Operating a watercraft under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher is against the law in Maine. That is the same percentage at which it is illegal to operate a car or truck. The OUI laws pertain to all vessels, from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships.
This year Operation Dry Water this year is July 5 through 7. The Maine Warden Service, Maine Marine Patrol, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard are participating this year.
On Saturday, Parker patrolled the Penobscot River from the Milford boat launch north to Olamon Island and back with a Bangor Daily News reporter on board as part of a warden service ride-along program. The game warden encounter not one boater and saw not one fisherman during the mid-day two-hour patrol as the temperature climbed toward 90.
The warden, who has been on the job for a decade, was surprised there wasn’t anyone out on the river Saturday since it has become a popular spot for bass fishing.
Parker said that his love of the outdoors made him want to be a game warden.
“No two days are ever the same and I like that,” he said.
Two years ago Parker moved to Penobscot County from Somerset County. His patrol area includes two towns and eight unorganized territories from the Penobscot River to the Washington County line including northern Hancock County.
Parker started his day Saturday with a call from a man concerned because a mother turtle was laying her eggs close to the road. He wanted to know what to do to make sure they hatched.
“Eighty percent of people are obeying the law or intend to obey the law,” he said. “I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when people don’t have their fishing license on them because they left in their wallet at camp or they forgot a life jacket. I try to treat people as they want to be treated.”
Operation Dry Water is a national weekend of OUI detection and enforcement aimed at reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related crashes and fatalities and fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water.
Last year, 80 game wardens participated and put in more than 1,200 hour e
enforcing recreational boating activity, inspected nearly 2,500 watercrafts with 5,400 operators and passengers, the warden service said Wednesday. The most common violations observed by game wardens related to safety equipment, registration requirements, safe operation and boating while intoxicated. More than 100 summonses and 328 warnings were issued to boaters last summer and game wardens arrested eight boat operators who were charged with operating under the influence of intoxicants.