AKRON - Cloudy skies did not keep boaters away from Portage Lakes in Summit County on the July 4.
"We don't care if it rains, we've got a top, we're going to go out," said Cindy Tonkovich of Coventry, who was taking her family's boat out for the first time this season.
Along with the fishermen and recreational boaters are deputies with the Summit County Marine Patrol.
"You see a lot of the same people out on the lake throughout the years and generations of families over the years," said Deputy William Liska.
Portage Lakes may be the busiest inland waterway in Ohio.
Many of the people who boat the lakes also live on the banks.
"The people who live out here tend to be a bit more respectful of the laws than other boaters because they live here," said Liska, who has patrolled the waterway for 27 years.
"When I first started out here, people drank in open view. It was not uncommon to find kegs on pontoon boats, people with open containers in plain view," said Liska.
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited on the waterways and Liska said strong enforcement over the years along with their presence has helped diminish the problem.
"People can drink at the bars and go from bar to bar to bar, but because the Sheriff's Department and the State Division of Watercraft and the Division of Parks have enforced the alcohol laws so aggressively over the years, it really does have a reputation for strong enforcement from that regard," said Liska.
What deputies are most often looking for these days are operating violations.
"Most of Portage Lakes is a no wake zone and people will be going too fast, creating a wake. That wake can travel to the shore and damage boats, damage the shore line, people who are swimming can be overwhelmed with the wake," said Liska.
Deputies were also checking for proper registration along with the proper number of life preservers and other requirements as people set out to launch their watercraft on Thursday.
Regular visitors know to expect them.
"We got the Sheriff's Department out here cruising around. They kind of, people see them. They got things under control for the most part," said Randy Tonkovich.
Deputies expect things to get very busy over the weekend when Portage Lakes hosts a boat parade and a fireworks display with a reputation of being one of the best in the area.
The Marine Patrol will be there too.