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U.S. Coast Guard: Captain's License required for guides in parts of Holston River

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The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has decided what sections of the Holston River in Tennessee are considered to be navigable waters falling under their jurisdiction.

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), Tennesseans who use the state's waterways have asked what lakes, rivers, and streams are regulated by the USCG. The TWRA added the USCG defines navigable waters as "internal waters of the US not subject to tidal influence that are or have been used, or are or have been susceptible for use, by themselves or in connection with other waters, as highways for substantial interstate or foreign commerce, notwithstanding natural or man-made obstructions that require portage." This means that although commercial vessels may not presently be able to navigate on some tributary rivers, they may still fall under USCG jurisdiction as navigable waters.

"The navigability of the Holston River extends to river mile 142.2, which is the confluence of the South Holston and North Holston forks of the river," according to TWRA Lt. Col. Glenn Moates, who has been in recent communication with the USCG.

The TWRA added unless you are carrying passengers for hire on the Holston River, this determination won't affect you very much. However, if you're a hunting or fishing guide on the river, or operate a boat carrying passengers for hire, it determines where the USCG Charterboat Captain's License is required.

If you're one of these guides, you are required to be licensed as a USCG Charterboat Captain up to river mile 142.2. From there up to South Holston Dam, this license is not required. Additionally, the South Holston Reservoir is considered to be federal waters because it lies within two states and a hunting or fishing guide would be required to be licensed. This license is properly termed "Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels" and is commonly referred to as the "6-pack" or "Charterboat Captain's License," according to the USCG website. The term "6-pack" refers to the six-passenger limitation placed on the license. Enforcement of the law requiring the Charterboat Captain's license is the responsibility of the USCG.

The TWRA clarified that although this license may not be required on all of Tennessee's waterways, any person who accepts compensation for providing assistance to another in any act of hunting, fishing, and/or trapping is required to possess a TWRA Guide License, in addition to any other required licenses. Companies employing guides may purchase such resident and non-resident guide licenses as may be necessary for its employees.

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