Do Kayaks Need to Be Registered?

Do kayaks need to be registered? The answer is maybe. Generally, the rules and regulations for kayak registration differ from state to state.

In addition, the boating laws in every state consider motorized and non-motorized kayaks, with more states requiring registration for motorized kayaks. 

For example, California doesn’t require registration for non-motorized kayaks, but you must register a kayak with an electric motor. On the other hand, the laws in Ohio require that you register any recreational boat, including non-motorized and motorized kayaks. 

Kayaking is enjoyable and adventurous, but ignoring boating laws in your state or neighboring states leads to unnecessary fines. Luckily, we have compiled extensive research to help you navigate kayak state registration and find out the answer to your question, “do kayaks need to be registered?”

Kayak Registration: What Is It?

Kayak registration refers to the steps you take to ensure your kayak is eligible for use on public waters. Like vehicle registration, you will fill out forms and submit relevant documents to prove you’re the rightful owner of the kayak. In addition, the registration agency will provide registration decals, indicating that your boat is eligible for use within the state.

Although the rules differ from state to state, the registration for kayak use is a straightforward process. In this article, you will find a step-by-step guide on registering a kayak later.

What States Require Kayak Registration?

Picture showing the seven states in the US that requires kayak registration.

According to the American Whitewater Organization, seven states require mandatory kayak registration. The states include:

  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Alaska
  • Illinois

You will notice that several sites suggest Washington State also requires a mandatory kayak registration, but this information isn’t accurate.

The Washington State Department of Licensing indicates that non-motorized kayaks are exempt from mandatory registration. If you visit the site, you will notice various stipulations that may exempt you from registration, including the length of your kayak. With that said, below is an overview of four states requiring registration for kayak owners.


The Department of Natural Resources in Ohio demands that you register motorized and non-motorized kayaks. You will register your boat at a Watercraft Office or Boat Registration Agent.

The primary requirements include proof of ownership, driver’s license or ID, boat details, and a registration fee. Your kayak must also be well-equipped with personal flotation devices, navigation lights, and a sound device.

Generally, the registration requirements are the same for new and pre-owned boats. However, if you purchase a registered boat, the department requires an official change of ownership before you renew your registration. The registration expires after three years, but if you want to change ownership before the due date (March 1), you can pay $5 for an ownership transfer.

The official registration fee varies depending on the boat details. You will pay $20-$25 for non-motorized kayaks and at least $33 for a motorized kayak.

Luckily, the department highlights clear instructions on its website, making it easier for anyone who doesn’t know how to register a kayak. In fact, you can join the mailing list for regular registration updates.


Minnesota is home to amazing kayaking destinations like the St. Louis River, Blue Earth River, and Taylor Falls. However, you may still be wondering, do you have to register for a kayak in Minnesota? The short answer is yes, and the Department of Natural Resources facilitates a clear process.

First and foremost, you will not need a registration license for a less than 10 ft kayak. In addition, if you use your kayak in Minnesota for less than 90 days, you will not require a license. You can complete the process at the DNR Licence Center, the deputy registrar of motor vehicle listings, or online.

The primary requirements include kayak details, proof of ownership, and personal information. 

If you register your kayak in a different state, you must provide a Certificate of Title. You must be at least 21 years to apply for a kayaking license.

An additional requirement is a $10.50 registration fee, which comes with a three-year license. You can add $4.50 for a duplicate registration card, but it’s not mandatory. Lastly, your kayak must include a flashlight and USCG-approved V PFD or Type I, II, or III life jackets.


Iowa is another beautiful state designed for kayaking activities, but do you have to register a kayak in Iowa? Yes and no, Iowa boating rules and regulations require registration for all motorized and hand-powered kayaks above13 feet. However, if your kayak is less than 13 feet, you are exempt from the registration requirements.

In addition, you must be at least 18 years old and undergo boater education to operate a motorized kayak. Like other states, your kayak must have USCG-approved life jackets and 360-degree lighting devices. The Department of Natural Resources also recommends investing in visual distress signals and sounding devices.

The Department of Natural Resources also requires proof of ownership, registration fee, and identification. You will fill out the form and submit it to the county recorder in your county of residence. Your application is eligible for three years and expires on April 30. Late renewals welcome a $5 penalty.


Do kayaks need to be registered in Pennsylvania? Yes, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources requires you to register your kayak in Pennsylvania. The state features several lakes, rivers, and streams that allow fun kayaking activities, and registration gives access to these areas.

You will submit your application through the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. The commission offers two types of registration:

  • A temporary registration that allows you to navigate the waters sooner. You can apply for this registration at the Commission region offices or reach out to an authorized issuing agent.
  • The mail application gives you an official registration decal. However, you will mail your application form and wait 60 days for your registration decals. Choosing this alternative prohibits you from using your kayak until you receive your decal.

Your registration lasts up to two years and expires on March 31. You can renew your application online or via mail. If you are using a non-motorized kayak, you must have a valid watercraft launching or mooring permit from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Life jackets are mandatory for everyone on the kayak, according to PCBC rules and regulations.

When Does a Kayak Need to Be Registered?

Generally, you need to register your kayak before you explore public waters, especially in states that demand registration. Most states don’t require registration for non-motorized vessels, but the same doesn’t apply to motorized vessels. 

That means if you are going to attach an electric trolling motor to your kayak, you must apply for registration.

For example, if you include an electric trolley motor in your hand-powered kayak, you need to review the registration laws in your state. In brief, depending on state laws, you must register your kayak before use. Upon registration, you will receive government documents, including a certificate of ownership, certificate of number, and registration stickers or decals.

How to Register a Kayak?

A woman completing a kayak registration form.

The kayak registration process is quite similar across all states. First, you must complete and submit a registration form to the relevant registration agency. The registration agencies include the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Coast Guard, and Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Additionally, you will submit all relevant documents that prove ownership, including the bill of sale or receipt, certification of title, manufacturer’s statement of origin, and personal identification. The department also requires detailed information about your watercraft, including the hull material, make, year of manufacture, length, and hull identification number.

Lastly, you must pay the specified registration fee before you receive your registration card. 

Expert insight: Kayak registration fees are lower than other watercraft. 

After a few days, you’ll receive the registration sticker, registration certificates, and other documents. 

Kayak Registration FAQs

How Much Is the Registration Fee?

The registration fee for kayaks ranges between $10 and $50. These charges are an approximation of the states above. However, you will notice that kayaks are cheaper than other vessels, with minimal requirements. Even better, this registration fee gives you access to a three-year license. 

Keep in mind that the registration renewal fee differs from the registration fee. 

When Do You Need to Renew Your Registration?

You need to renew your registration for kayak after three years, which is the registration length in most states. First, you must confirm your state’s expiry dates and renewal period. Remember, late renewals and using an expired license can lead to penalties and fines.

Do You Need to Register Your Kayak if You Move to Another State?

Yes and no. The registration requirements for registered kayak owners differ from one state to another. For example, some states will allow you 60 to 90 days before you have to register for an in-state license.

However, other states like Minnesota allow you to provide a Certificate of Title, which proves you are registered in a different state. Therefore, it is vital to confirm the registration laws before you use your kayak outside state waters.

So, Do You Have to Register a Kayak?

The question remains, do kayaks need to be registered? The short answer is still maybe.

You don’t have to register your kayak, but if the state requires registration, you must abide by the state laws. So, for example, you will need to register your kayak in Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, but the same rules don’t apply in California, Florida, or New York.

Bottom line, always check with the official boating department in your state to avoid inconveniences. You may not have to serve jail time, but the violation fines can be an inconvenience. Therefore, prioritize rules and regulations for a fun kayaking experience in any state.