Rule Change: CKA, NC Wildlife and U.S. Coast Guard Lighting Rules Explained

CKA Kayak Lighting Requirements and Laws for Man-Powered vs. Motor-Powered Boats in North Carolina

New rule effective March 24, 2024: All anglers must display a white light that is visible 360 degrees between sunset and sunrise to ensure safety during tournament hours.

This is to explain spirit of the rule, the law and the exceptions to be aware of. The easiest solution: buy a Yak Attack VISIpoleII, mount it and you are ready to fish.

General Explanation

CKA requires the maximum visibility when launching on large bodies of water shared by recreational boaters in the form of a 360° white light. We also recommend red and green side lights as described in the regulations below for powered kayaks (with the minimum being 360° white light so you are seen from all directions).

Vessel laws vary state to state for inland waters, and some rivers and lakes fall under U.S. Coast Guard jurisdiction and rules. This also may apply in national kayak fishing events so be aware of all lighting requirements for the waters and events you are fishing in. This is angler responsibility and you should always read rules before any event to ensure you are aware of any changes or differences from a normal day of fishing. Although a torch (flashlight) is all that is required under man power, for safety and consistency CKA requires a 360° light on all kayaks.

Note: A white stern light would not be sufficient for this rule; anglers fishing in CKA events must use a light that is higher than the back of the seat of the kayak or an additional masthead light to comply with the 360° rule.

Below we discuss different scenarios, include two exceptions where additional lights are required on motor-powered kayaks.

Variations between Trails/Clubs

If “double dipping” in a CKA event along with another trail event, the more strict rule is what you will need to follow to ensure you are compliant with each event’s rules. When fishing CKA events, CKA rules apply. A safety violation on another event that you are fishing simultaneously would not effect the CKA event if you are in compliance with CKA safety minimums.

Exceptions: Kerr Lake (Buggs Island) and Lake Wiley

The two lakes in North Carolina that fall under a different jurisdiction for boating safety rules are Kerr Lake and Lake Wylie. All other lakes are in the N.C. Wildlife enforcement and boating safety rules.

Rangers enforce the regulations found in CFR Title 36, Chapter III, on these two lakes.
For the exact law, see:

and see also

According to these rules, CKA will need to enforce red and green sidelights on powered kayaks on these lakes. While we do not fish Wiley, Kerr Lake is the site of the annual Battle on the Border.

NC Wildlife Safe Boating Rules

North Carolina law is clear regarding lighting on paddle-craft and small vessels. See regulations below for actual verbiage from the governing bodies.

(Under exceptions that cover small craft (page 11) –

  1. Row or Paddle Boat and Small Sailboats:
    A vessel under oars, and sailboats less than 7 meters (23 feet) in length may display those lights prescribed for a sailing vessel, but if they do not, they shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern shining a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.
  2. Vessels of 10 Horsepower or Less:
    On waters of the State not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, vessels propelled by machinery of 10 horsepower or less, in lieu of the foregoing requirements, may carry from one-half hour after sunset to one-half before sunrise a white light in the stern or have on board a hand flashlight in good working condition which shall be ready at hand and shall be temporarily displayed in sufficient time to prevent collision. On waters of the State that are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, this exception, though permissible under State law, is not sanctioned by any Federal law or regulation.

U.S. Coast Guard Regulations

CFR Title 36, Chapter III

(e) All vessels, when on project waters, shall have safety equipment, including personal flotation devices, on board in compliance with U.S. Coast Guard boating safety requirements and in compliance with boating safety laws issued and enforced by the state in which the vessel is located. Owners or operators of vessels not in compliance with this section may be requested to remove the vessel immediately from project waters until such time as items of non-compliance are corrected.

(d)(i) A power-driven vessel of less than 12 meters in length may in lieu of the lights prescribed in Rule 23(a) exhibit an all-round white light and sidelights.

Sidelight include a red port side light and green starboard side light as well as a white 360° light. The 360 light is required of all boats registered in CKA events.

   (ii) A vessel under oars may exhibit the lights prescribed in this rule for sailing vessels, but if she does not, she shall ‹‹ exhibit an all around white light or ›› have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision

Although the law only requires a torch (flashlight) CKA rules will require a 360° white light. This would not be allowed in CKA events.

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