Class preaches etiquette for all lake users

Published online: May 25, 2011 News Mike Organ - The Tennessean
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At some point during his boating safety classes, when he talks about personal watercraft operators getting along with fishermen in boats, Mike Majka tells the same chilling stories.

Never mind if the stories are true. Majka is determined to get his point across to those who operate Jet Skis, Ski-Doos, Waverunners and other personal watercraft.

"One of the biggest things I push is boating etiquette - it's OK to do this and it's just not cool to do that," Majka said. "I tell horror stories I've heard about personal watercraft operators buzzing into areas where fisherman are fishing and the fishermen casting lures into their neck or their arm.

"These are probably just wives' tales, but I pass them along just to get the point across that we need to be the better boater."

Saturday is the start of National Safe Boating Week, when the National Safe Boating Council partners with state fish and game agencies to promote safe practices.

No matter how large the river or lake, there seldom seems to be ample space for pleasure boaters, anglers and personal watercraft operators to all get along.

The rift has existed since jet skiing became popular in the late 1970s, yet Majka is sure all the groups are capable of co-existing.

"I don't look at it as a fisherman has more rights here than a pleasure boater or jet skier," he said. "I think we're all equal. And the one thing we must all keep in mind is it's a give-and-take thing. It's a matter of treating others how you want to be treated on the water."

Along with teaching a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency-sanctioned boating safety class, Majka is the head of the Middle Tennessee Personal Watercraft Club.

His desire to help personal watercraft operators find middle ground with anglers impressed TWRA boating coordinator Betsy Woods, who encouraged him to create the club.

"It's pretty neat to see these kinds of groups," Woods said, "and they're popping up all over the country."

Woods and Majka said there has been better cooperation between personal watercraft operators, anglers and pleasure boaters since 2005.


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