How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat?

pass fishing boats on lake

We love a good day on the water. Launching the boat, spending time with those you love, and cruising around the beautiful blue waters is one of the most enjoyable experiences in the warmer seasons. 

And while being on the water can be an incredibly freeing experience, boating has rules. As a general rule, you should give other boats plenty of space in the water and try not to cross over their wakes. This can get complicated if there are fishing boats in the water.

Fishing boats often have ropes, fishing lines, and even large nets, depending on the size of the vessel. Some of the lines and ropes can extend hundreds of yards through the water. Crossing these could cause accidents and damage to both of your boats if not done carefully. 

There’s a US Coast Guard protocol for safely crossing these lines in the water. Keep reading below to learn how to pass a fishing boat.

3 Steps to Passing a Fishing Boat

Whenever two vessels approach each other, one vessel is the “give way” and the other is the “stand on.” The give-way is supposed to yield to the stand-on in order to avoid collisions and signal any intentions to move or stop. The stand-on is one attempting to pass the give-way and must signal their intentions as well. They both have an inherent responsibility to avoid collisions and accidents.

Wait for the All-Clear

It’s both a safety precaution and a courtesy to your fellow boaters to wait for them to signal that you’re clear to pass. Usually in this situation, boats will signal using their horn.

Pass on Port

When you’re passing someone in a car, you’re supposed to pass on the left. When you’re passing a fishing boat, it’s the same. According to the US Coast Guard, you should always make an effort to pass on the port side (left) of the vessel. This means you must steer toward starboard, that way both vessels are passing each other on their port sides. When ready to pass this way, you should honk your horn once. When they’re ready for you to pass, they’ll return a single honk. 

However, sometimes this isn’t an option. If the fishing boat’s lines are cast toward the shore from their port side, you might not be able to pass them on that side. When this happens, you take on the role of the “stand-on”. You must signal to them that you’re passing them on their starboard side and wait for the all-clear. You can signal you’re passing on the starboard by honking your horn twice. When they honk back twice, you’re clear to pass. 

Go slowly

When passing, go very slowly and try not to make any wakes. A large wake could be dangerous for the fishing vessel. It might rock the boat and toss someone off the edge.

Hierarchy of Right of Way

Just like the rules of the road, there are certain groups that have right of way on the road. All boaters must do everything in their power to avoid collisions and crashes with other vessels, especially fishing boats. When it comes to the hierarchy of right of way, boats being overtaken by another and unmanned vessels have the greatest priority. 

Below that, from highest to lowest priority is:

  • Boats with limited maneuverability because they have gear in the water (such as nets)
  • Boats with restricted navigation
  • Actively engaged fishing vessels
  • Sailboats
  • Powered boats

Fishing boats have a higher priority and right-of-way over powered boats. This is one of the reasons why you need to wait for their “all clear” signal before passing them. If the fishing boat is only trolling and isn’t actively fishing, then they have the same priority as a powered boat.

Hagadone Marine Group

Finding your dream boat is closer than you think. Located on Blackwell Island on Lake Coeur d’Alene, our large on-water dealership is perfect for you to explore! We offer new and used boats for sale in addition to many top-notch services. Visit our showroom and take a test drive or get your watercraft repaired in our huge service center.