Outdoor recreation can play a vital role in protecting our natural resources. When you register your boat, you do your part in sustaining resources that promote safe and responsible use of our nation's waters. Your registration dollars also help pay for marinas, boat ramps, lake clean up and much more.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR):

The WDNR is responsible for regulating the state boating laws in Wisconsin.


All boats propelled by machinery, including gasoline, diesel and electric motors, and principally operated on Wisconsin waters must be registered with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). The following vessels are exempt from this requirement:

  • Sailboats that are no more than 12 feet in length, as long as they are not fitted with a motor
  • Vessels that are manually propelled and not equipped with a motor or a sail
  • Vessels registered in another state that are operating in Wisconsin for no more than 60 days consecutively
  • Sailboards

Certificate of Ownership

Boat owners must keep their Certificate of Ownership in a safe place.

Note: On the reverse of the Certificate of Ownership there is an application for the transfer of ownership.

Certificate of Registration

Boat owners must have at least a temporary Certificate of Registration before they can operate on state waters. Upon receipt of the Certificate please note the following:

It must be signed and carried onboard when operating the vessel.

The Certificate of Number is valid for three years starting April 1 and expiring on March 31 of the third year. The WDNR must be notified within 15 days if the boater changes residences, or if the boat is stolen, destroyed or abandoned.

A transfer of the ownership of a boat terminates the certificate of number and title. The new boat owner will apply through the WDNR within 10 days following the transfer and prior to boat operation for a new title.

If you lose or destroy your Certificate of Number or decals, you must apply for a duplicate and submit a processing fee.

Successful registration results in a certificate of number, physical boat numbers and a decal. Your registration MUST be kept on board the vessel at all times. (It is advisable to keep the registration in a dry-bag on board.) Boat numbers must:

  • be affixed on both sides of the bow
  • be block letters, three inches high and contrasting with the color of your boat
  • Letters must be separated from the numbers by a space or a hyphen

For example: WI-5697-JL or WI 5697 JL. This is a federal and state requirement.

Lack of the correct documentation can result in delays and fines.

Make sure all boats are properly marked and documented. It's important to keep your papers with the boat - be particularly aware when transferring ownership of your vessel.

*Content provided by www.BoaterExam.com