Maine game wardens are stepping up boat patrols this weekend.
An unidentified Maine game warden surveils boating activity on Sebago Lake. Credit: Courtesy of Joel Crabtree / The Star-Herald

Maine game wardens will be out in force this weekend patrolling the state’s lakes, ponds and rivers.

That comes as Mainers prepare to get out for the weekend before the Fourth of July.

Game wardens will be checking for lifejackets, reminding boaters to take precautions against the spread of invasive species, and removing those boaters who have been drinking.

Last year, nearly 100 game wardens had contact with more than 4,800 boats and 9,000 boaters during “Operation Dry Water,” removing 16 who had operated under the influence, including one boater with a blood-alcohol level of 0.13, according to Mark Latti, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Nearly 3 in 8 boating deaths in Maine last year involved alcohol, Latti said. Nationally, 16 percent of boating deaths involved alcohol, while 83 percent of people who drowned while boating weren’t wearing lifejackets, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Alcohol continues to be the number one factor in boating deaths throughout the country,” Maine Game Warden Lt. Jason Luce said. “Maine Game Wardens will be patrolling lakes and ponds throughout the state to ensure that we all can safely enjoy Maine’s waters.”

The warden service recommends Mainers not drink while boating, whether they are operating the boat or are just a passenger, as well as don a lifejacket and maintain safe speeds on the water. Mainers should ensure someone knows where they are going and when they expect to return from boating.

“Maine has thousands of lakes and ponds, and boating is a wonderful way to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday weekend,” Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso said. “We want everyone to enjoy Maine’s waterways in a safe and responsible manner. “