The Handbook of Wisconsin Boating Laws and Responsibilities
The Official Boating Handbook of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Web Version
Table of Contents
Titling: Only vessels 16 feet or more in length require a Certificate of Title.
Vessel Operation: If your vessel requires registration, it is illegal to operate it or allow others to operate your vessel on Wisconsin waters unless it is registered and numbered properly.
Expiration: Registration is valid for three years, beginning on April 1 and expiring on March 31 at the end of each three-year period. No vessel may be operated after the registration has expired.
Duplicates: If a Certificate of Number is lost or destroyed, the vessel owner must apply to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a duplicate.
Buying or Selling a Vessel: Transfer of ownership of a vessel terminates the Certificate of Number and Certificate of Title.
- The “buyer” must apply for a new registration and/or title on forms furnished by the DNR. The previous owner’s Certificate of Number and Certificate of Title must accompany the application.
- Upon receipt of the required fee and applications, the DNR will issue a new Certificate of Number and/or title.
- After applying, the “buyer” may operate the vessel for up to 60 days while waiting for the registration card and expiration decals to arrive. The operator must have a copy of the application on board.
- It is unlawful to transfer the number assigned by the DNR from one vessel to another.
Changes Requiring Notification: The owner of a registered vessel must notify the DNR within 15 days of the occurrence of any of the following events.
- The owner changes his or her address.
- The owner transfers all or any part of his or her interest in the vessel.
- The vessel is destroyed or abandoned.
Documented Vessels: Larger recreational vessels owned by U.S. citizens may (at the option of the owner) be documented by the U.S. Coast Guard. Call the USCG at 1-800-799-8362 for more information. Documented vessels also must be registered in Wisconsin.
- The expiration decals must be displayed on either side of the vessel’s name on the transom, but it is not required to display the registration number.
- If the expiration decals are not displayed beside the vessel’s name, then the registration number and decals must be displayed as they are for undocumented vessels.
For More Information on Registering…
- Call Wisconsin DNR at
- Visit the Wisconsin DNR website at
http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat/ and enter keyword “boating”