With more and more young anglers accompanying older fishermen these days - young as in anyone born after Jan. 1, 1984 - it’s time to carve out time between those fishing trips with a safe boating course.

That date is listed because it’s written in state law: Louisiana boaters born after Jan. 1, 1984, must complete a National Association of State Boating Laws Administrators-approved boating education course and carry proof of completion to operate a motorboat powered by an engine in excess of 10 horsepower.

This week, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries made it easier to complete the state-approved course. The LDWF is offering the course online. You can access the course via two websites: www.BoatUS.org or www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating/courses. There is no fee to take either online course, but you must complete a test before you can print a certificate indicating you have successfully completed the course.

Other course options are attending a fee-free, one-day classroom taught by state-approved instructors or paying a fee on www.boat-ed.com.

“We’ve loaded the course with interactive animations, videos and photos to give boaters, sailors and anglers an education that goes well beyond the basics of boating,” BoatUS Boating Safety director Chris Edmonston said. “It includes videos that demonstrate important safety devices such as visual distress signals, how to get help in an emergency, how to prevent and extinguish fires aboard your boat, and the best way to fit a life jacket to a child so they will not slip out.”

LDWF boating-law administrator Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne said the online course is designed to reach many boaters and fishermen who have had problems getting to a state-approved session.

“The department wants to provide as many opportunities as possible for people to get their boating safety certification,” Mayne said. “Since the course is free and people can take it at home, we want to encourage everybody to give it a try even those that don’t need their certification. This free online course will teach new boaters how to become safer on the water and old boaters some new tips.”

Mayne said data shows on-the-water boating accidents have decreased in the younger age groups since Louisiana’s safe boating law was enacted in 2003.

Edmonston said BoatUS studies show states with boating education programs recorded 3.67 boating-related fatalities per 100,000 registered boats annually compared to 6.61 rate for states without the programs.

Check this out

Hard to believe that a redfish measuring less than 27 inches long could top the 9-pound mark, but it happened Saturday in the latest in the LDWF-sponsored Saltwater Series.

Fishing out of Sweetwater Marina in Delacroix, the team of Scott Ritter and Jimmy Rowell brought in a red weighing 9.22 pounds - and didn’t win. Their two-redfish total was a hefty 16.56 pounds.

The team of Jason Leblanc and Kory Matherne beat them out by one one-hundredth of a pound - a 16.57 total - with an 8.34-pounder topping their stringer. Leblanc and Matherne took home $2,400. Ritter and Rowell won $800.

Hackney’s in

Gonzales angler Greg Hackney turned on his game to finish sixth in the final Bassmaster Elite Series event of the year - the Dixie Duel on Wheeler Lake near Decatur, Ala. - and earn a spot in February’s Bassmaster Classic set for the Red River in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.

Hackney was out of the top 28 - Classic berths reserved for top Elite qualifiers - going into the series’ eighth and last 2011 event. His 58-pound, four-day total was just nine ounces back of Rookie of the Year Ott Defoe’s total. Tournament champ David Walker, who earned a spot in the 2012 Classic with the win, brought in 63-10.

It’s Hackney’s 10th Classic trip after he pushed his all-time B.A.S.S. earnings to near $1.4 million on his 37th top-10 finish.

History was made on Wheeler after Saturday’s third round.

That’s when two-time defending Classic champion Kevin VanDam - remember his record-setting Classic catch in February from Lake Cataouatche near New Orleans? - became the seven-time winner of the Angler of the Year title. It was his fourth straight AOY crown.

The three other Louisiana anglers in the field, Cliff Crochet, Dennis Tietje and Jeff Connella, ended the season down in the points standings and without a Classic berth.