Can You Launch a Kayak From a Boat Ramp? 7 Tips!


It’s nice having a quiet grassy spot or the sandy beach to launch your kayak into the water. But sometimes you won’t have that spot. Here are seven tips you’ll need to know about launching from a boat ramp!

Yes, you can launch your kayak from a boat ramp! You may also launch from anywhere you have public or permitted access. If you’re in a State Park, there may be local regulations launching from the grass and not a ramp if your kayak is motor powered.

Hitting the water by yourself or with friends is always filled with great anticipation, and using a crowded boat ramp can be challenging at times. Common sense is a huge part of sharing these launching points with other boaters, and using these seven tips will give you a leg up!

7 Tips for Launching From a Boat Ramp

  1. Be Familiar with the Facility
  2. Dim Your Headlights
  3. Be Prepared to Unload
  4. Gear Up Away From the Ramp
  5. Don’t Hog the Dock
  6. Help Somebody Else When You Can
  7. Give the “Right of Way” on the Water

Here are seven quick tips I use when launching from a boat ramp. As you launch from different places, you’ll pick up a way of doing things your way, and that’s great! How awesome would it be if others were polite, courteous, and picked up some trash here and there too?

You’ll run across marinas and certain boat ramps where they do things their way or have a certain level of expectation of how things are done. These tips, explained below, will get you started in the right direction. Enjoy!

1. Be Familiar with the Facility

When launching your kayak from your home water, you know the lay of the land there at the marina, dock or beach. You know where to park when you arrive, where to park after you’ve unloaded your kayak, and where to hang out to meet your arriving friends.

There’ll be times when you’ll be launching from a new body of water, and most of us like getting there before the sun begins coming up. Don’t be that guy who rushes in and takes over. Park off to the side, or in an empty spot, jump out and walk around for a few minutes.

Take a quick walk and look things over. Some ramps are capable of handling four or more boats at a time coming and going. Check to see if there are designated lanes for launching and loading boats. You do not want to be sitting in the wrong lane when trucks start rolling in.

Find a good spot to get your gear ready, unload rods from your fishing tubes, organize your tackle, drink the last of the early morning coffee, etc. Once you’re all set to drop your kayak into the water, head on down toward the ramp!

2. Dim Your Headlights

If the sun hasn’t started peeking over the horizon yet and it’s still fairly dark out, go ahead and use your headlights, but remember to switch them to dim when you can. It’s annoying to be backing down the ramp with another truck shining their BRIGHTS into your eyes. And you don’t want to be shining yours into theirs either.

If at all possible, I will even turn my headlights off and run with the parking or running lights on when I can. At least until I get off the ramp and on my way to park the vehicle. Being courteous goes a long way!

3. Be Prepared to Unload

Once you get down to the water isn’t the time to start getting prepared to launch, remember we did that in Tip #1! Be ready to unload your kayak from the vehicle or back your trailer into the water.

If you are using a trailer, try to have most of the straps unhooked if you can. If everyone unloading a boat or kayak took 5, 10, or 15 minutes to unhook straps and get place gear into the boat, there would be a ton of unnecessary delays. And possibly some short tempers!

What we’re doing now is getting our kayak into the water. If no one else is around, certainly start carrying gear from the truck down to the kayak if you like. But if others are waiting, pull your kayak off to the side so they may use the ramp.

4. Gear Up Away From the Ramp

I’ve been on large lakes in Missouri where there are a couple of long lines of trucks waiting to get to the ramp and have seen a few “altercations” on the ramp at times! Once your kayak is in the water, pull it over to the side so others can get their watercraft in.

After you move your kayak out of the way of others, go ahead and set out whatever gear you need and park your vehicle. Dropping a kayak into the water should take roughly five minutes or so, and not much longer if you use a trailer to transport your kayak.

From a spot off to the side of the ramp, you can load up your rods, electronics, and other equipment, and easily slide your yak into the water. The same holds when you return to leave the water. Ease up onto the shore, not blocking the ramp, unload your gear, pull down the vehicle, load the equipment, and slide the kayak onto your car, truck, or trailer.

5. Don’t Hog the Dock

Some ramps will have a dock close by for boats to tie up to after they launch into the water. Don’t be a dock hog and leave your kayak tied to the dock while you wait on friends to arrive or to use the facilities. The best practice is to move your kayak to the side of the ramp or secure it to the furthest end of the dock.

Heavy fishing boats need deeper water, so they don’t bottom out. Be a good person and give them the room they require.

6. Help Somebody Else When You Can

There was one situation on a local lake, where a husband and wife were having a hard time getting their boat onto their trailer. A small group of guys gathered to watch the mayhem unfold, and it didn’t look like they were going to help.

I walked down and lent them a hand, straightening the boat up to the trailer so the guy could drive it up. Both he and his wife thanked me. They were both frustrated with each other, and it could have entirely ruined a great day they had.

Without a doubt, if I were having some issues, I would gladly accept a bit of help. And I’m willing to help others. So, be a good person and offer somebody a little assistance if they look like they need it.

7. Give the “Right of Way” on the Water

Who has the Right of Way on the water? According to the United States Coast Guard, Navigation Rules FAQ, “The Rules do not grant privileges or rights, they impose responsibilities and require precaution under all conditions and circumstances. 

Use common sense when kayaking around the boat ramps. You’ll find yourself to be difficult to see if it’s early morning or after the sun begins to set. Do you have the required lighting for your kayak? If not, take a look at my article, Nighttime Kayaking: Light Requirements Explained.

The way I look at it, they’re bigger, faster, and more maneuverable than me and my kayak are!

  • If there is a channel marked with buoys, stay out of the channel unless you’re crossing it.
  • Don’t hang out in front of a marina or dock floating around.
  • Give any beach swimmers and fisherman plenty of room.
  • Display a Hi-viz flag so boaters can see you and be alert to others.

My rule of thumb is, whether I believe I do or don’t is, I don’t have the ‘Right of Way’ when it comes down to me and my kayak versus a large walleye or bass boat. I can float in a few inches of water compared to them and go places they can’t.

So there you have them, seven tips to make your kayak launching from boat ramps, or anywhere else for that matter a breeze! And please check out the article Do I Need a Flag on my Kayak? and Can You Kayak on Any Body of Water Legally? The Truth if you’re just getting started kayak fishing.

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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