Skip to main content

Idaho Fish and Game

Photo of Duck hunter in boat in cold conditions

Cold water dangers to waterfowl hunters, anglers


With the onset of autumn and resulting cold air and water temperatures, waterfowl hunters and anglers are urged to take precautions and wear life jackets while on the water this fall.

Photo of Duck hunter in boat in cold conditions

Overloaded boats and failure to wear life jackets are leading reasons Idaho typically loses a couple of hunters or anglers every year.

In the past ten years nearly 67 percent of the fatal boating accidents in Idaho were the result of victims involuntarily entering the water from small boats. The average water temperature of Idaho’s water is 52 degrees, even during the summer.  Wearing a life jacket can greatly increase your chance of surviving a cold water immersion situation.

Idaho's boating laws and simple safety guidelines include:

  • Wear life jackets while on the water, especially when in transit or when the weather turns bad. Small boats combined with limited visibility and high winds can be hazards to safe navigation. Remember: Idaho boating laws requires all vessels to have at least one properly sized life jacket for each person on board. Life jackets only work if they are worn.
  • Be aware of the capacity of your boat and be careful not to overload vessels. Many waterfowl boats are small and they can easily be overloaded with hunters, dogs, and gear.
  • Vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and in periods of restricted visibility such as fog or heavy rain.
  • Be prepared for changes in the weather and dress accordingly.
  • Leave the alcohol at home. Alcohol makes a person more susceptible to hypothermia, interferes with their ability to swim, and to make quick decisions in an accident.
  • Do not be afraid to cancel the trip if the weather turns bad.

Learn more about Idaho boating laws and safety guidelines by attending a free boating safety class. Upcoming classes will be held November 19 and January 21 in Hayden.   For details or to register, visit