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How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat?

Mark Armstrong
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​Whether you’re new to boating or you’re in a need of a refresh of the rules, knowing how to pass a fishing boat can be an important rule to remember.

Navigation rules are there to keep us safe and avoid accidents on the water.

But we know there can be a lot to learn and remember, so we’ve put a quick guide together so you can remind yourself of some of the rules of overtaking boats on the water.

How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat - PinterestPin

​Why You Need To Know The Overtaking Rules

Knowing the right way to pass a fishing boat can be important for safety reasons. Unlike passing a regular boat, there are other things to consider when passing a fishing boat because of lines, nets and other obstacles that will likely be in the water.

Catching or dragging lines and nets on your vessel can cause damage and can even injure people.

Additionally, failing to understand or learn the rules of overtaking boats, you could cause a collision, which could also lead to injuries, as well as cause damage to all vessels involved.

​Passing A Fishing Boat: The Right Way

​Keep A Lookout

No matter what the conditions are, one of the most important rules to avoid an accident is to always keep an eye out for other water users. You should use your eyes and ears as well as radio and radar if you have it.

This can be even more important while you’re actively passing a fishing boat, as you will often have other obstacles to look out for, for example fishing lines, in addition to the usual hazards you should be looking out for while passing, such as other boaters and swimmers.

It can be useful to have another person on board with you who can help to keep a lookout for obstacles and other boats.

​Reduce Your Speed

Before you pass a fishing boat you should reduce your speed if necessary to a safe passing speed so as to avoid creating a large wake. It’s part of the navigation rules that you should always maintain a safe speed and stay within the particular zone’s speed limits.

Your traveling speed should give you enough time to react to obstructions in the water and stop or maneuver out of the way in time if necessary.

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​Pass On The Port Side

When approaching a fishing vessel, or any other vessel, you should pass on the port side to avoid a collision. This means both vessels should steer to the right, or starboard side.

However, if you’re overtaking a vessel, you can overtake on any side as long as it’s safe to do so. 

Video: Passing Other Boats

Before you overtake, you should alert the boat you are overtaking, by sounding your horn. One short blast to let them know you are changing your course to starboard or two short blasts if you are changing your course to port.  

The boat in front of you should then sound its horn, repeating your signal, to let you know that they have understood the signal. This can let you know that it is then safe to pass. Ideally, you should wait for the other boat’s signal return before you begin to overtake.

When you are overtaking, your vessel is the give way vessel and the one being overtaken is the stand on vessel, so you should keep well clear of the other boat until you are safely past.

​Give Vessels A Wide Berth

When you’re passing a fishing vessel, remember that they will often have lines that will stretch beyond their vessel, so it’s important to pass with enough space that you don’t get caught up in their lines.

However, fishing boats may not always have the right of way in all situations, so it’s also the responsibility of the fishing boat crew to take precautions if necessary. This can be done by putting your vessel in neutral so that your lines sink deeper under the water.

You can also put your boat in neutral if you are passing over another vessel’s fishing lines, so that their lines don’t get caught on your propellers.

fishing trawlers passing each otherPin

​Avoid A Collision

The navigation rules are designed to keep water users safe and that means avoiding collisions while on the water.

In some cases, this may mean having to break another one of the navigation rules but if it keeps everyone safe and prevents property from being damaged then that’s the main thing, as the rules state that any steps should be taken in order to avoid a collision.

You may find certain situations where you might have no choice but to break a rule to avoid a collision, such as if the other boater is not familiar with the rules and you have to take all necessary steps to avoid them.

Another situation may be where a fishing boat has lines or nets cast out towards the shoreline, meaning you can only pass them on one side. You should alert them in the same way as if you were overtaking, so they know whether your vessel will be passing on port or starboard side, depending on which direction they are facing.

Damage and injuries can usually be prevented if you follow the rules of navigation, with one of the most important ones being that you look out for potential hazards when you’re on the water so that you can take advance precautions to reduce your speed and pass safely.

2 Fishing Rods - Pass fishing boatPin

​The End

No matter where you’re boating, there will usually be rules to follow so that all water users can stay safe. When you’re passing a fishing boat, these rules can be even more important, as there are potential underwater hazards to consider.

Remember to alert the fishing boat as to whether you’re passing on the starboard or port sides and wait for the return signal that it’s safe to do so. Maintain a safe speed and always keep watch for other boats and water users to avoid any collisions.

Help to keep everyone safe on the water by sharing this guide and let us know if you’ve found this helpful.

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