Boat Registration and Titling Requirements

In order to legally operate a boat in the state of Wisconsin, you must obtain a Certificate of Number and validation decals. The Certificate of Number must be carried on board and be available for inspection by an enforcement officer during boat operation.

Registration application forms are available at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) field offices, marinas, and at county clerk offices. You can renew your registration online at

Boat registrations are valid for 3 years and expire March 31st of the third year.

Boat Registration Exemptions:

  • Human-powered craft.
  • Sailboards and sailboats under 12 feet in length (without a motor).
  • Boats registered in another state using Wisconsin waters for less than 60 consecutive days.

Other Registration Info

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) must be notified within 15 days when:

  • A boat is lost, destroyed or abandoned.
  • The boat owner’s address changes.
  • The boat ownership is transferred.

Note: If registration documents or decals are destroyed or lost, you must apply to the WI DNR for a replacement and pay a fee.

Boat Registration Numbers and Decal Placement:

  • The numbers must be applied as a decal, painted or permanently affixed to each side of the boat’s bow (boat owners are not permitted to display any other numbers in this area).
  • The numbers must be in bold block letters that are at least 3 inches high and in a color that contrasts with the color of the boat.
  • The numbers must be separated from the letters by a space at least 2 inches wide.
  • The numbers must be read from left to right.
  • Validation Decals must be placed in line with the registration number and placed 3 inches toward the stern.
  • These placement requirements also apply to personal watercraft (PWCs).