Lake Regulations

Big Bear Lake

LAKE PATROL officers are authorized to enforce all laws, ordinances, and regulations in effect on the waters of Big Bear Lake.

BOAT PERMIT must be properly displayed on all vessels. Any alteration to or trade of a permit will void the permit.

BOAT SIZE REQUIREMENTS: Maximum boat length is 26 feet. Manually propelled boats less than 12 feet in length and float-tubes are required to operate between the 5 MPH buoys and the shore.

PUBLIC DOCKS: located at the boat launch facilities are for loading and unloading only; do not leave boats unattended.

SANITATION: No refuse shall be thrown into or left on the shoreline of the Lake; no oil from a bilge pump shall be allowed to discharge into the Lake; no person shall deposit any type of fish, amphibian, or aquatic plant into the Lake.

VEHICLES are prohibited from driving on the Lake bottom. Vehicles must obey posted speed signs and operate in accordance with the Vehicle Code while on District property.

ANIMALS must be on a leash no more than 7 feet long while on District property.

OPEN FIRES are prohibited except at Forest Service designated campgrounds and picnic areas, or by special permit.

FIREWORKS are prohibited.

Age Limitations

PERSONS UNDER THE AGE OF 16 are prohibited from operating any vessel with more than 15 horsepower.

PERSONS 12 THROUGH 15 years of age are prohibited from operating a vessel with more than 15 horsepower unless supervised on board by a person at least 18 years of age.


RECKLESS OPERATION: No person shall operate a boat, waterski, or similar device in a reckless or negligent manner. The owner and operator are responsible for any damage caused by their boat, its wake, or its tow.

BOATING ACCIDENTS must be reported immediately to the Lake Patrol.

SPEED LIMIT: 35 MPH maximum; 10 MPH from sunset to 7:00 AM; 5 MPH between buoys indicating same and the shoreline; 3 MPH in Papoose Bay, Canvasback Cove, and Mallard Lagoon.

SAFETY EQUIPMENT: All boats must be equipped according to California Boating Law safety requirements.

MUFFLERS: No boat shall operate with excessive noise. H&N 654

LAUNCHING: Boats requiring trailers may be launched only from designated launch ramps. All other boats may be carried and launched at designated recreational or public access points around the Lake after obtaining a boat permit.

MOORING or tying to navigational markers is prohibited. Overnight mooring or beaching of boats along the shoreline is prohibited.

CHILDREN under the age of 12 are required to wear a personal flotation device while on board a vessel that is underway.

PUBLIC DOCKS located at the boat launch facilities are for loading and unloading only; do not leave a boat unattended.

PERSONAL WATERCRAFT shall maintain a 100 foot distance from all other boats while operating above wakeless speeds.

PERSONAL WATERCRAFT operators are prohibited from “spraying down” any person or vessel in the water.

PERSONAL WATERCRAFT riders shall wear personal flotation devices at all times.


ALL BOATS engaged in waterskiing shall maintain a counter clockwise direction.

HOURS OF WATERSKIING are between 7:00 AM and sunset.

AN OBSERVER in addition to the operator is required and must be at least 12 years of age.

A RED FLAG must be displayed whenever a skier or equipment is in the water.

ALL BOATS engaged in waterskiing shall maintain a counter clockwise direction.

NO PERSON shall operate waterskis or similar device so as to endanger the life of any person..

WATERSKIERS shall wear personal flotation devices.


FISHING is prohibited from the Dam or from within posted areas.

ANGLERS 16 YEARS OR OLDER must have a current California State fishing license properly displayed..

ALL FISHING REGULATIONS are strictly enforced.


SWIMMING is allowed within 50 feet of the shore, within a designated swimming area, within 20 feet of a private dock, or as incidental or necessary to waterskiing, jetskiing, sailboarding or in an emergency.

SCUBA DIVING is prohibited.

For Your Safety

TROLLING FISHERMEN should display a white flag to indicate to other boaters in the area that a fishing line is trailing in the water behind the boat.

FISHING BOATS should not impede safe access for waterskiers entering or exiting a designated ski beach.

OPERATORS should maneuver their boats slowly and carefully in unfamiliar waters, since fluctuating Lake levels can cause unmarked natural or manmade hazards to occur.

SWIMMERS should always swim with a partner and swim with caution in unfamiliar water.

LIGHTNING STORMS can develop quickly in the mountains, and lightning frequently strikes the Lake’s surface. Boaters are advised to seek shelter and safety quickly.

ICE COVERING BIG BEAR LAKE during the winter months is extremely dangerous, unstable, and deceptive. STAY OFF LAKE ICE!!


New State Boating Laws Effective January 1, 2001


Persons under the age of 16 are prohibited from operating any vessel powered by a motor of 15 horsepower or more, except for a sailboat that does not exceed 30 feet in length. The new law allows persons 12 to 15 years of age to operate motorboats of 15 horsepower or more if supervised on board by a person at least 18 years of age.


New law prohibits personal watercraft (PWC) operators from undertaking unsafe or reckless practices, including jumping another vessel’s wake within 100 feet of that vessel, operating at a rate of speed and proximity to another vessel so that either operator is required to swerve to avoid collision, and “spraying down” any person or vessel in the water.


All recreational vessels less than 16 feet in length, including canoes and kayaks, must carry Type I, II, III or V wearable personal flotation devices for each person on board. Prior to the new law, vessels under 16 feet were allowed to carry either a throwable or wearable flotation device for each person on board.

Parasailing on the Lake

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