How To Register A Kayak In Ohio

All water vessels in the state of Ohio need to be registered by law, and that includes kayaks. However, there are a few exceptions…. and we’re going to get to that later.

So how exactly do you register your kayak in Ohio and what do you need to do it? To give you some advice and hopefully to ease your concerns, we’ve put together this helpful guide.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. You should contact a legal attorney if you need definitive answers regarding Ohio state law.

I Need To Register My Boat? Why?

Ohio law requires that all water-going vessels are registered with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. 

Types of boats, including kayaks (as well as inflatables), powerboats, sailboats, canoes, and pedal boats, fall into this category. So before you head out on the water in your kayak, you must pay a registration fee, and you must display the registration decal on your vessel.


There are a couple of exceptions that may mean that Ohio boat registrations are not required for your kayak. If you are in the state for a vacation and you bring your vessel into Ohio from another state or country, then you do not need to register your kayak.

Similarly, if you are participating in a kayaking competition in Ohio and you are ordinarily resident in another state within the United States, you will not need to register your kayak. As long as you and your kayak are not in Ohio for longer than 60 days.

It might be worth noting that paddle boards, sail boards, kite boards, belly boats, and float tubes, are also exempt from the registration laws.

How To Register A Kayak Or Small Boat In Ohio

If you have a kayak, canoe or any other paddle/hand powered boat then you can register it with an Alternative Registration. This will give you registration for 3 years.

However, if you plan to attach any type of motor, or even a sail to your craft you will need to register it as a Traditional Registration, as your Alternative Registration will be invalid if you attach a motor or sail (even if it’s temporary).

The decal you receive must be attached to your vessel (shameless plug: how to place decals on your kayak) so that it can be seen, either at the bow or stern. One recommended place to display it on your kayak is at the stern, just behind the cockpit.

Keep in mind that you will also be required to carry the registration paperwork with you while you’re out on the water.

Where To Register Your Boat And Kayak

There are several locations across Ohio where you can register your kayak. This can be at an Ohio Department of Natural Resources office or at an Ohio DNR approved Watercraft boat registration agent. These agents include Great Lakes Boat Works in Painesville, OH and Sea Ray of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, OH.

Your registration is valid for three years and expires on March 1st. You can renew your registration online using your OH boat number and your PIN. These can be found on your renewal notice.

All watercraft principally operated on Ohio waters must be registered and issued an Ohio Registration Certificate by the Ohio Division of Parks & Watercraft.

What You Need To Register You Kayak

  • Completed registration application form (which can be downloaded)
  • Payment of  registration fees
  • Proof of ownership (such as a receipt)
  • Driver’s license or other official photo ID
  • Hull Identification Number

What Else Is Required For Ohio Boat Registration?

A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) are required for every person on the kayak, whether they’re paddling or not. Children under 10 years of age, on any vessel under 18 feet in length, are required to wear life jackets at all times while on the water. U.S. Coast Guard approved life vests should be used.

At least one Type IV flotation device should be kept on board boats over 18 feet in length.

For paddling between sunset and sunrise, you are also required to have a white light or lantern so your kayak is visible to other water users in the dark. And during these hours, if you’re paddling on Lake Erie you are also required to carry visual distress signals.

You may also require additional safety equipment, particularly if your boat is motorized.

Boating fatalities are taken seriously...Having said that, you don't need a fire extinguisher (if your boat is less than 26 feet in length).

Video: Ohio Boating Safety Equipment Requirements

Ohio Alcohol Boating Laws

A kayak / boat operator with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more is considered to be intoxicated and operating under the influence (OUI).

Any refusal to cooperate with a law enforcement officer in providing an alcohol breath test is also an offence. The penalty can be hefty fines and a boating ban.

Finishing Up

Registering your kayak or boat in Ohio can be pretty easy once you know how and where to do it. You can then explore the many lakes and waterways that Ohio has to offer. Just make sure you know the type of boat you’re registering, so you can ensure you are applying for the correct Ohio boat registration.

Let us know how you get on and don’t forget to share this information with your fellow kayakers to make sure everyone’s following the rules. And remember to stay safe on the water. 

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 23 comments
Deb Loede - June 5, 2019

How much does it cost to register a kayak in Ohio

    Scott - June 9, 2020

    $20 – see link

KT - June 16, 2019

The Alternative Registration costs $17 plus a $3 writing fee plus a $5 waterway conservation fee, for a total of $25 for three years.

(You need a traditional registration if you are going to add a sail or motor though. Those cost only $20)

    Ashley McMahan - May 19, 2020

    Where do you get them registered?

      tiphanie - May 24, 2020

      Exactly, I mean the entire article is about how and where to register your kayak and it never tells you where, I am completely baffled by this…

        Anonymous - July 25, 2020

        WHERE isn’t addressed.

          Kayak Guru - September 16, 2020

          Sorry about that. We’ve since updated the article to reflect where to register

nicole - July 10, 2019

i wanted to buy a kayak off of a guy but he dont have papers is there any way to tell if its reported stolen ?

Anonymous - May 18, 2020

where can I buy kayacks licences in ohio near 44413

Anonymous - May 24, 2020

Do you realize that under the heading Where to Register, this article never, in any section, says where to register your kayak in Ohio? ????

    Kayak Guru - September 16, 2020

    Sorry about that. We’ve since updated the article to reflect where to register

Tara - June 6, 2020

I just registered my kayak the other day at my local BMV. You can only use cash they don’t accept any other form to register. It was a pretty easy process. I bought the alternative registration because I didn’t want to have to buy the stickers myself.

Samantha Lancaster - June 7, 2020

Does anyone know what I do if I’ve lost my registration card? Not the stickers, he actual registration? Im trying to renew but i dont have the boat number, apparently it’s on the renewal notice but ive lost that too.

    Anonymous - June 10, 2020

    The boat I.D. number is on your boat.

Anonymous - July 9, 2020

What if I don’t have proof of purchase on a Kayak when getting it registered?

gary striffler - August 10, 2020

All this great information, yet you don’t say whether it’s the title bureau the license bureau or which specific branch of the Ohio BMV to register. Thanks for wasting my time

    Kayak Guru - September 16, 2020

    Sorry about that. We’ve since updated the article to reflect where to register

Anonymous - August 11, 2020

If I have a kayak registered in oh but use it occasionally in PA do I need a boat launch permit in PA?

Billy - September 2, 2020

Where in Lorain oh can I go register 2 kayaks?

Barry - September 3, 2020

I came to this blog post to learn where I can register my kayak in Ohio. So when I saw the heading in Big Bold Letters that said “Where to Register” I thought, YES! Here it is.

And what amazing information did I discover under this heading?
Well, that “There are many locations all across Ohio where you can register your kayak in person.”

Woohoo! Mystery solved!

    Kayak Guru - September 16, 2020

    Sorry about that. We’ve since updated the article to reflect where to register

Anonymous - September 5, 2020

It is in the article. It is under Main Source.


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