Boating is now a common pastime, especially among young adults. In the past most people  only boated for professional reasons, but now more and more people casually hop on boats  to enjoy an aquatic outing.

While some people rent boats or board public boats for transportation, others prefer the privacy of their personal boats. If you own a boat that you pilot yourself, then learning, understanding, and respecting the safety rules of boating is crucial in ensuring water safety for all.

Maintaining safety on the water is very important, especially when passing other water vessels. How should you pass a fishing boat? Let’s find out.

Why Are Fishing Boats Harder To Pass?

With fishing boats, there are higher chances of having an accident. This happens because water vessels of this sort have ropes or lines in the water; sometimes these ropes travel a distance as far as a few hundred yards or more. 

According to safety practices, you aren’t permitted to pass over these lines in your own boat unless you get an all-clear signal from the second boat. It’s your duty and responsibility as a boat owner to ensure that you adhere to all safe practices on the water. 

No matter how well- trained you are or how much experience you have, there is always a chance of an accident or close encounters. However, with safe practices, serious or lasting damages can be avoided.

How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat?

According to the federal rules on how you should pass fishing boats, fishing boats should steer to the right-hand (or starboard) side. This means that both boats have to pass each other on their left-hand (or port) side. 

When passing a fishing boat, pay attention to doing so with the utmost care, trying to avoid any fishing lines. Running into fishing lines or dragging them can lead to damages and injuries. 

How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat Safely On Water

Here are a few tips to help understand this rule, which greatly reduces the risk of accidents:

Always Keep A Lookout

To avoid an accident, the most important rule is to always look out for other boaters. Always pay attention to your radar as well as your radio, if you have them.

Remaining alert and vigilant is particularly important when passing a fishing boat, because there are generally more obstacles to look out for. One key example of such obstacles is the fishing lines that hang off the boat, spanning across the water. 

If you’re closer to the shoreline, you should also look out for swimmers and people participating in other water sports. Keep as much distance from them as you can so that you have enough room to navigate.

​Reduce Your Speed

Always reduce your speed just before you pass a fishing boat. The navigation rules state that you should always stick to a safe speed while maintaining the speed limit of whatever zone you’re in at that period. 

You should always maintain a traveling speed where you have enough time to react to water obstacles. You need to have time to move out of the way or stop completely if you have to.

Pass On The Port Side

Whenever you are approaching any other boat, you should always steer to the right-hand side (starboard) and pass on the left side (port) to avoid a collision. 

Observe All Rules Before Overtaking

To overtake a boat, you can do so on any side as long as you’ve  confirmed that it’s safe to do so. However, there are a few rules to observe before overtaking and they include:

Alert The Fishing Boat

Before overtaking a boat, always alert the boat  that you intend to overtake it by sounding your horn. A short blast informs them that you intend to change your course to the right side, and two blasts inform them that you intend to change your course to the left side.

Wait For A Return Signal

Always wait for the boat to repeat your signal, which lets you know that they understand your intentions before you overtake. Remember: the fishing boat you’re overtaking is the "stand-on vessel", while your boat is the "give-way vessel".

​Give Boats A Lot Of Space

Always give a safe distance or a wide berth when passing a fishing vessel; remember that they always have lines that run longer than their boats. Extra space ensures that you don't run into these lines.

A hack to this is putting your boat in neutral when passing over the lines of a fishing boat. This is to make sure that your propellers don't have a run-in with the lines. 

Avoid A Collision

The reason for a navigation rule is to make the water safe and to avoid collisions/accidents for all water users. Always try to obey these rules, putting your safety and that of other water users at a premium level. 

Look out for hazards so that you're in a position to always take needed precautions in a  timely manner. Stick to the safe speed limit preset for each zone.

Right Of Way On The Water

Just as certain vehicles have the right of way on the road according to traffic rules to avoid collisions, certain boats also have the right of way on the water.

In the hierarchy of water right of way, boats that are being overtaken (in this case, fishing boats) and unmanned water vessels have a higher priority. 

The ranking from low to high priority is:

  • Powered boats
  • Sailboats
  • Fishing vessels in active use
  • Boats with limited navigation
  • Boats with restricted maneuverability, for example, fishing boats with gear (like nets) in the water 

If you're driving a motor-powered boat, fishing boats have more priority; you need to wait for their "all clear" signal before you pass.

However, if the fishing boat is not actively fishing, then you're both on the same priority level.

How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat? 

The navigation rules on how should you pass a fishing boat are simple. Learning and following these rules not only goes a long way in keeping you safe, but in keeping other water users safe as well.. Always alert a fishing boat when you intend to pass them, and let them know from which side that you intend to pass them from.

Pay attention to your speed limit not just for your own safety, but for the safety of other boaters too.  Remember: your first responsibility as a boater is to keep yourself and other boaters safe.