Connecticut Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)

CT Kayaking Laws - Rules Regulations

Connecticut has 618 miles of tidal shoreline on Long Island Sound. Not to mention more than 3,000 beautiful lakes, rivers and reservoirs to patrol and police. With all that recreational kayaking opportunity and the increased popularity of paddling sports, the CT kayaking laws, rules, and regulations are evolving to keep up.

Not a Lawyer Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. More importantly, I am not your attorney. This article is not legal advice. If you desire legal advice, consult a competent, licensed attorney in your area.

CT Kayaking Laws Summary

  • CT Kayaking Law – Connecticut considers kayaks and canoes to be manually propelled vessels (propelled by oar or paddle).
  • Connecticut Kayak Registration – Any vessel that is propelled only by oar or paddle is exempted from registration.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – It is unlawful for any person to operate or use a motorized vessel on the waters of Connecticut unless it’s registered.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing – Anyone can kayak in CT, but children under 13 must wear their life jackets.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – Under 12 years of age operating a boat with more than 10 hp needs someone 18 or older directly supervising them. Both must have Safe Boating Education.
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Connecticut has a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) law—0.08% blood alcohol content. 0.02% if you’re under 21.
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – One PDF on board per person. In a manually propelled vessel from October 31 through May 31 the PFD must be worn. And children under 13 must wear it at all times.
  • Kayak Lights Law – Between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility, you must have legal lighting.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – Vessels less than 16 feet must have some means of producing a sound.
  • Kayaking VDS Law – Visual Distress Signaling devices aren’t required except when boating in Long Island Sound and Fishers Island Sound.

Well, that’s the summary of Connecticut boating laws as they apply to kayaking and canoeing. The details are more in-depth. Read on to find out how to safely and legally paddle Connecticut waters.

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Connecticut Kayak Registration Laws

Do you need to register a kayak in CT?

The quick answer is no. All vessels used on the waters within the state must be registered, except those that are:

  • Less than 19.5 feet in length and not a motorboat
  • Any vessel that is propelled only by oar or paddle

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Connecticut?

The quick answer is yes. All motorized vessels used on the waters within the state must be registered. (Including kayaks and canoes with motors on them.)

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

Connecticut Kayaking Education Laws

Do you have to have a license to operate a kayak in Connecticut?

The short answer is no. Non-motorized Kayak and Canoe Safety classes are voluntary in Connecticut.

Do you need a license to operate a (motorized) boat in CT?

Anyone less than 12 years of age who has completed and received a Safe Boating Certificate or Certificate of Watercraft Operation and will be operating a boat powered by a motor greater than 10 hp also must be accompanied on board by a person at least 18 years of age who also has a safe boating certificate.

The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection—DEEP—presides over all boating safety courses for the state.

Connecticut Kayaking Alcohol and Drug Laws

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Connecticut? The quick answer is yes. Boating under the influence (BUI) is illegal in Connecticut. And you are considered under the influence if you have a 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC) and if you’re under 21 the Blood Alcohol Content limit is 0.02%.

Is a BUI the Same as a DUI in Connecticut? The quick answer is yes. Connecticut considers Boating Under the Influence (BUI) to be the same as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) penalize you accordingly.

Related Article:Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak?

CT BUI Penalties

There are severe penalties for BUI

  • Fines range from $500 to $8,000
  • Loss of boating privileges for one year to LIFETIME
  • Jail time from 5 mo. to 3 years

CT Boating Laws Life Jackets

Do you have to wear a lifejacket on a kayak in Connecticut? The quick answer is yes. There must be one personal floatation device for each person on board. With a rule unique to Connecticut, that anyone in a manually propelled vessel must actually wear their PFD from October 1 through May 31.

In Connecticut, a life jacket must:

  • Be readily accessible
  • Fit the intended wearer
  • If the vessel requires a Type IV PFD, it must be immediately available
  • Be U.S. Coast Guard approved
  • Have a legible label
  • Be in serviceable condition

Connecticut PFD Age Laws

A life jacket must be worn by children under 13 years of age.

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Connecticut?

The quick answer is that vessels 16 feet and over, except kayaks and canoes, must have one throwable Type IV USCG-approved PFD on board in addition to the required number of PFDs for each person.

Related Article: Kayak Life Jacket Laws by State (50 State List)

Connecticut Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night?

Powered vessels less than 39.4 feet long must:

  • Display red and green sidelights
  • An all-round white light at least 3.3 feet higher than the sidelights

Unpowered vessels

A recreational vessel underway less than 23 feet (7 meters) in length must, if practical, display red and green sidelights, and a 360 degree all-around white stern light.

If not practical, they must have on hand at least one lantern or flashlight that shines a white light.

These lights must be displayed:

  • Between sunrise and sunset
  • During periods of restricted visibility

NOTE: Red or Blue lights are reserved for law enforcement use.

Lights While Moored or Anchored

Whenever moored or anchored outside a designated mooring area, between sunset and sunrise, all vessels must display a white light visible in all directions.

Connecticut Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a horn to kayak in Connecticut?

The quick answer is yes. Type A vessels less than 16 feet must have some means of making an efficient sound signal.

The best “sounding” device for kayakers and canoes is a whistle attached to your PFD in a place that’s easy and quick to reach.

Here’s what we consider to be the best whistle for kayaking.

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

VDS are required on Long Island Sound and Fishers Island Sound—3 daytime and 3 nighttime signals. But they’re only required between sunrise and sunset on:

  • Open sailboats less than 26 feet with no motor
  • Manually propelled vessels
  • Recreational vessels under 16 feet

Connecticut Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motored kayak in CT?

The quick answer is no. A fire extinguisher isn’t required on outboard motorboats less than 26 feet (7.9 meters) in length if:

  • Not carrying passengers for hire
  • It doesn’t permit entrapment of flammable gases or vapors
  • The fuel tanks are not permanently installed

Additional Connecticut Kayaking Resources

Connecticut Boating Law Enforcement

Connecticut Parks and Wildlife officers and all other law enforcement officers are authorized to enforce the boating laws of Connecticut.

Connecticut Boating Education Resources


I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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