Important California Boat Registration Reminders

By Andy Whitcomb

May 29, 2017

California boat registration is required for most watercrafts and there are some additional requirements that residents should be aware of.

With over 800 miles of coastline and thousands of lakes, there are many great opportunities for fishing and boating in California. And as with boating in any state, boat registration is required.  Here is some general California boat registration information. 

CA boat registration is required for sailboats over eight feet long and any powered watercraft, even on if only used on private lakes. However, if you solely row or paddle your watercraft, CA boat registration is not necessary. And if you are just visiting and/or renting a boat, California boat registration is not required.

In addition to boat registration, by January 2018, California boaters also will be required to obtain a California Boater Card. This new law will be phased in by age, required by anyone 20 years old or younger driving a boat. It is an exam on safe operation of boats with motors which can be completed with classroom instruction or online. Cost is about $10 and will be good for a lifetime. The Division of Boating and Waterways projects issuing these cards as early as Fall of 2017. 

While investigating California boat registration info, I also found there was great attention to the prevention of invasive quagga and zebra mussels.  In fact, there is a “Mussel Fee Paid” sticker which must be displayed on the hull next to the CA boat registration sticker.  All boats leaving a waterway should be dry, clean, and inspected to prevent spread of this invasive species to other waterways in every state, not just California.

When learning where to boat, be sure to investigate California boating facilities such as ramps and marinas. You also can check on the “Latest News” and Safety information, which is grouped by water craft length. Carefully read all of the California boat registration information. If in doubt, go ahead and register with proof of ownership and filling out a form. Then, you don’t have to worry about it and can fully enjoy your time on the water.
Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.