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Boats Licensing

Boats over 12 feet long and motorboats of any length, including those using electric trolling motors, must be registered to be operated on public waters. Boat registration, transferring of boat ownership and replacing lost boat registration stickers are done through your local county treasurer office.

Boats are registered for a one year period. Fees are based on the length of boat and the type of propulsion. All registration needs to be done at the county treasurer's office in the county of residence, not where a boat is kept or primarily used.

Boats registered in another state may operate in South Dakota for 60 days before registration is required in South Dakota. However, nonresident boats docked in South Dakota need to be licensed in South Dakota.

Boat Numbers

South Dakota follows U.S. Coast Guard guidelines for placing identification numbers on watercraft. These straightforward requirements are important for vessel identification, safety, and law enforcement.

Who Needs the Number?
  • All motorized boats, regardless of length and construction materials, and all non-motorized boats over 18 feet in length must be licensed and numbered.
  • Non-motorized boats over 12 feet in length must have a validation sticker, but boat numbering is optional.
  • Non-motorized boats 12 feet in length or less are not required to be licensed or numbered.
Number Requirements
  • The boat number assigned to your boat can be found on your boat license registration.
  • The number may be painted, applied as a decal, or otherwise affixed to both sides of the bow of your boat.
  • The numbers must be at minimum 3 inches high and in block letters.
  • The numbers color must contrast clearly against the background color of the boat.
  • Letters must be separated from the numbers by a space: SD 123 AB or SD 1234 YZ.
  • The number must be affixed so it is clearly visible and readable at a distance of 100 feet when the vessel is in the water.
  • The number on each side of the boat must be placed so it is read from left to right.
  • Your boat validation stickers must be affixed on both sides of the bow, adjacent to an in line with the boat number.
  • No other numbers may be displayed on either side of the bow.

Examples of acceptable and unacceptable boat numberings:

Remember, if your vessel requires registration and boat numbers it is illegal to operate it or allow others to operate it unless registered and numbered properly. Your boat registration card must be on board and available for inspection by an enforcement officer whenever the boat is being operated.

Boat numbers that do not meet specifications are subject to fines. Those that are illegible due to size, non-contrasting colors, or other reasons may need to be replaced immediately.

BOAT Registration

Boat registrations are handled by local county treasurer's offices.

Out-of-State Boat Registration

  • Vessels registered in another state may operate in South Dakota for 60 days before registration is required in South Dakota.
  • Vessels documented with the U.S. Coast Guard and on South Dakota waters for less than 60 consecutive days within on calendar year do not need South Dakota registration.
  • Vessels berthed at a South Dakota marina must have a South Dakota registration if the contract for the berth is for 60 or more consecutive days within one calendar year.