It's a been a good start to the warmer seasons out on the lakes, but local organisations say there are still safety messages everyone needs to keep in mind.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council acting harbourmaster Daniel Rapson said it had been a fairly typical start to the spring season.
"The weather is very variable at this time of the year, with some very strong winds over the last few weeks, including during the school holiday period.
"With Covid-19 preventing overseas travel, we are expecting a busy summer, with more Kiwis choosing to holiday locally."
Rapson said the main message to boaties was to take care before heading out - "prep, check, know".
He said it had been a long time since many had used their boats, so they were asking people to take their time getting ready, prepare their boat, check their gear, and know the rules before going out on the water.
He said powered vessels over 4m and non-powered vessels over 6m had to be clearly marked with a name or number.
All jetski and other personal watercraft using Bay of Plenty waterways needed to be registered.
With the anticipated higher number of vessels on the water this year, unnamed vessels and unregistered personal watercraft would be issued $200 infringements if stopped by their patrol vessels, he said.
Rapson said this summer he was looking forward to getting out and seeing lots of visitors and locals enjoying the region's harbours and lakes while at work, and getting out on his own boat with his wife and kids.
Water Safety New Zealand data revealed there were five drowning deaths in the Bay of Plenty last year, three of which were classified preventable.
That compared to 12 deaths in 2018, of which 10 were preventable.
Nationally, 98 people drowned last year; 78 of those deaths were deemed preventable.
Coastguard Rotorua Lakes past president Richard Packham said he had seen pretty good behaviour so far and most boaties had been having fun safely.
"I'm looking forward to getting out on the water as well with family and enjoying the lakes."
He reminded people not to underestimate the lakes, tell someone where you were going, and wear a lifejacket.
He also reminded people to be wary even though the lake might look calm, it could become rough further out and catch people off guard, especially those in kayaks.
Regional water safety strategy manager Dave White said they had already seen an increase in people swimming without wetsuits in the recent school holidays – a sign summer was around the corner.
"It's been a tough year for everyone and we're expecting to see higher numbers of people on the water this season. With the closed borders restricting Kiwis from international travel, people will be looking to head to local holiday hotspots.
"We've already seen an influx of Airbnb and Bach bookings, and with recreational watercraft becoming more affordable, we're likely to see an increase in purchases heading into summer given that Kiwis can't spend their money overseas."
Water Safety Bay of Plenty and the wider water safety sector are urging people to be safe this season.
White said boaties should check their vessel and fuel, and recommended all skippers become members of Coastguard and complete Coastguard Boating Education's Day Skipper course.
"With more people on the water there's more risk but being smart can ensure you and your whānau come home safe.
"We also encourage the community to get active during Water Safety Month. There are many events happening around the Bay, hosted by local providers, that are all teaching essential water safety skills in a fun way."
• To find out more, go to watersafetybop.co.nz.
Fishing season gets off to a great start
There was celebration among anglers at the start of this month
as the fishing season opened.
Department of Conservation Rotorua community supervisor Caraline Abbott
said DoC had seen lots of visitors having a safe and enjoyable time on the lake, and it had been great to hear their stories.
"The boat ramps were busy around October 1, with many people travelling to Rotorua as part of an annual tradition to celebrate the opening of the fishing season.
"With a few small exceptions, visitors have been respectful by camping in appropriate places, not lighting fires, removing litter and respecting the environment. People were having a lot of fun."
She said an interagency approach between DoC, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Fish & Game meant key messages regarding appropriate behaviour were wide-reaching and visitors were aware of the rules before they set out on the water.
"As we head into summer, the need to check, clean, dry between waterways remains vitally important to protect the waterways from invasive pests."
Abbott said catfish and other pests were known to be in a limited number of Rotorua lakes and people needed to stop the spread by making sure they checked boats and fishing gear for visible weed fragments and fish eggs, cleaned equipment to kill microscopic fragments such as spores and then let the item dry.
"Although the land in the Rotorua area isn't as harsh as some of the back-country areas, it's still important to plan for your trip - camp in designated places, don't light fires, remove your litter and toilet appropriately.
"If you're taking a dog, make sure dogs are permitted and keep it under control. Uncontrolled dogs are a risk to both native birds and other visitors."
She said organisations like DoC and Fish & Game were well supported by significant numbers of volunteers to help deliver great outdoor experiences.
"In addition to individual volunteers that have recently helped welcome visitors for the opening of the fishing season, volunteer organisations like the Rotorua Trails Trust and the Lake Okareka Community Association work year-round to maintain tracks and manage campgrounds for the public to enjoy."