Guide To Texas Kayak Laws

Mark Armstrong
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If you’re planning to kayak in Texas, it’s important that you are aware of the state laws and what might legally be required while you’re on the water.

While there may be different regulations for different vessels, there are general laws for kayaking and canoeing that can be useful to know before you head out. So to help you stay on the right side of the law, we’ve put together this guide on Texas kayaking laws.

Guide to the best kayaking spots in Texas

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What Are The Laws For Kayaking (or boating) In Texas?

Personal Flotation Devices

Kayak Laws PFD Life Vests and jackets. What are the rules?Pin

Regardless of where you’re paddling, if you’re in a kayak, canoe or any other vessel under 16 feet in length you must have a wearable Personal Flotation Device (PFD) on board; one for each person in your vessel.

If your craft is longer than 16 feet, it’s necessary for you to also have a throwable flotation device in addition to the wearable ones.

> Our guide to kayak life jackets


All children under the age of 13 must wear a PFD, that’s been approved by the US Coast Guard, while on the water. This law applies to children on vessels under 26 feet and the PFDs must be worn at all times. 

Trolling Motor

If you’ve added a motor to your kayak or canoe, it will be considered a motorized vessel. This means that in accordance with Texas law, you will need to register your craft.

As well as being required to register your vessel with a motor, it is also necessary to have a safety whistle on board your craft.

Nighttime Paddling

It is mandatory to have a bright white light on board your vessel if you’re paddling between sunset and sunrise, and preferably one that has a 360 degree visibility.

A white light is required by all canoes and kayaks, as well as other manually powered vessels that are on the water at night.

Alcohol Consumption

Police Alcohol Laws Kayaks Canoes and BoatsPin

While it might seem like the perfect opportunity to kick back and have a beer, drinking alcohol while you are operating a boat is actually against the law.

If you’re operating a vessel and are found to have a blood alcohol level above 0.08% then you could find yourself with an up to $2,000 fine and you could end up in jail for up to 180 days – and that’s just for a first conviction.

> DUI on a kayak (Worldwide)?

What If I Want To Fish From My Kayak?

Fishing License

Whether you plan to fish from a pier or your kayak, in order to fish anywhere in Texas you will need a fishing license. There are different licenses for saltwater and freshwater but it’s also possible to combine the two with an all-water package.

> Lake Houston fishing guide

Texas State Parks

If you plan to fish in a State Park in Texas then you don’t need to purchase a fishing license, as long as the waters you plan to fish in are completely within the park’s boundaries.

Invasive Species

If you plan to take your kayak into or out of freshwater zones in Texas there are other rules you have to follow. You must make sure that your craft is fully drained prior to transporting it in order to prevent the spread of invasive species, such as zebra mussels.

It’s also necessary for you to clean and dry your vessel and anything else that may have been in contact with the water before you leave.

Winding Up

Hopefully you are now fully aware of the regulations for kayaking in Texas, so you should be able to head out on the water legally and, most importantly, safely.

Remember, the laws are there in order to keep you and other water users safe. So when you plan your next kayaking trip, make sure you all have your PFDs and if you’re paddling at night, remember your white light!

Share this with your fellow Texan paddlers to make sure they all stay safe on the water. And leave us a comment to let us know your thoughts.

Why not also visit our local places to kayak map for Texas and further afield!

2 thoughts on “Guide To Texas Kayak Laws”

  1. Does it matter where the light is mounted. I know that over the years as yaking has become more prevalent the laws have changed. When I started kayaking, we would have just a flashlight or no light at all.

    • Clearly states visible with 360 degree visibility. But we know the only way to do that is to elevate it up enough. Powerful led could be put on your head as well, think outside the box.


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