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  • Writer's pictureNew Wave Fishing Academy

You Didn't Know This About Personal Flotation Devices (Life Jackets)

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

While fishing can be a fun activity for the whole family it also puts you in a position that can become dangerous if you are not prepared. No matter how much time you have spend on or around the water it should never be underestimated. To ensure you can be prepared for all your fishing (or camping) adventures and be safe on the water we have decided to do a blog series on some items often overlooked or misunderstood by anglers / boaters that can leave you unprepared in an emergency or put you in dangerous situations.

In our opinion there is no better way to spend a summer day than on the water. Unfortunately, playing on the water has risks associated with it; waves, rocks/shoals, poor handling, mechanical failures, and even other boaters. In the event that disaster strikes its important to be prepared. One of the best ways to be prepared is to have adequate life jackets for everyone on board. While this is fairly common knowledge and a legal requirement in Ontario there are still a lot of things most boaters are not aware of that can leave you in a bad position during an emergency and be faced with fines if stopped by the police. To help keep everyone informed we thought we would prepare a summary so everyone can enjoy this season on the water to its full potential.

To start things off lets go over what governs boat safety in Ontario. The legal requirements for boating are governed by the Canada Shipping Act and its regulations such as the Small Vessel Regulations which can be viewed by clicking on the hyperlink. If you ever have any doubts or questions this is the end all be all. No matter what "guide" is put out there this is the actual law and overrules anything else you may think.

In the regulations there is a clear distinction between human powered pleasure craft (kayak, canoe, paddle board, even a floatie if you're in one!) and everything else. Some excerpts from the regulations:

"A pleasure craft shall carry on board

  • a personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket of an appropriate size for each person on board;

  • If a personal flotation device or lifejacket that must be carried on board a pleasure craft is to be worn by a person less than 16 years of age, it shall be inherently buoyant.

  • A personal flotation device or lifejacket that is required by these Regulations, if it is of an inflatable type, shall be worn by a person in an open vessel or, if the vessel is not open, shall be worn when the person is on deck or in the cockpit

From the above statements there are multiple things to note. Each boat must have enough pfd's for everyone on board, this is pretty common knowledge, but they must also be sized appropriately! This becomes more tricky if you frequently take guests on your boat or kids. In addition, anyone less than 16 years of age must wear an inherently buoyant life jacket. This means no self deploying lifejackets or pull cord / blow up life jackets. This is important as many self deploying life jackets are more comfortable and stylish but are not appropriate for anyone under 16 and do not count as a pfd. Further, any inflatable type lifejacket ONLY counts as a PFD if it is being worn. This means it must be kept on at all times while in the boat not just while driving. This is different from inherently buoyant PFD's which do not need to be worn and are often not worn by most boaters. If you are making the switch to an inflatable PFD be sure to take this into consideration.

On a side note, the inflatable PFD's are comfy but what happens if it accidentally discharges? As soon as it discharges you are likely to deflate it as it is no longer comfortable but this now means you are no longer in compliance with the regulations of having one PFD per person on board! If you are using inflatable PFD's be sure to keep extra inherently buoyant PFD's on board as well to avoid this situation or you will need to keep the PFD inflated until you arrive back on shore.

While PFD's are not legally required to be worn whole in a boat we recommend that they be worn at all times while the pleasure craft is in motion. It doesn't take much to catch a wave and be thrown from the boat, or hit a shallow water hazard and be ejected. In the event you are knocked unconscious from the incident a PFD can only save you if it is worn.

To experience a day of fishing with us be sure to check out our YouTube channel at the link below:

If you or someone you know is looking to get into fishing or you just want to become a more successful angler be sure to check out our "Zero To Hero Fishing Masterclass" for courses on everything fishing! The masterclass is built to help you learn how to find and catch fish like the pro's by providing all the information you need and a clear development path! Don't miss out check it out now at

Have you ever wondered why lures don't come with instructions and wanted to know how to fish them? Look no further than our "How To Fish" series where you will learn what each bait is, how to use it, when and where it excels over other baits, our preferred setup to use it on, and the common mistakes anglers make when using it.

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