When you take your boat out for a cruise, you’ll likely come across a variety of other vessels on the water, including fishing boats. If you are wondering how you should pass a fishing boat, you’re in the right place. You should always pass a fishing boat on the left — or port — side of their boat, but do you know why?

 At Germaine Marine, we are passionate about boating, and we want you to be, too. So, let’s dive in and learn how to pass a fishing boat! 

Why Is There Concern When Passing a Fishing Boat

When a fishing boat is actively fishing, you’re only seeing what’s happening on the surface. Below the water, there may be lines, ropes, and nets that extend hundreds of yards past what you can see. If you pass a fishing boat with these things in the water, you could get stuck, cause damage to your or their boat, or even get in a boating accident.  

Knowing how to pass a fishing boat helps prevent these issues while protecting both boats and drivers. 

How Should You Pass a Fishing Boat 

Unlike vehicle driving, there is no clear right-of-way rule about which boat gets to go first on the water. Instead, boaters, fishers, and anyone driving a water vessel must operate on a simple safety rule: take action to avoid a collision. This means that everyone needs to be alert and aware and do their part in preventing. 

If you find yourself approaching a fishing boat on the water, follow these guidelines on how you should pass a fishing boat. 

Signal the Other Captain 

Your first step should be to make contact with the driver of the fishing boat. This contact alerts the other boat that they are being passed and ensures that both drivers are present and aware during the passing process. 

If you are on the right side of a fishing boat, use one short blast of your horn to signal the other boat. If you are on the left side, use two short blasts. 

Wait for the All Clear 

After signaling the other boat, you need to wait for them to tell you it is clear to pass. Casual fishers may be able to quickly reel in their line, giving you clearance to pass. However, larger or commercial fishing boats typically can’t bring their gear in at a moment’s notice. So, you need to make sure they are aware of you and tell and say it is safe to pass. 

Pass on Port 

When you pass a vehicle on the road, you pass them on the left. This same rule applies to passing another boat when you’re out on the water. Passing on the left, or port, side gives the fishing boat a clearer view of where you are at all times as you pass them. 

If you find yourself in a situation where it is impossible to pass a fishing boat on their port side, communicate with the other boat driver that you will be passing on the starboard side. 

Go Slowly 

When you approach any boat, it is common boating courtesy to slow down until you are past them. You don’t want to speed through the area and leave a large wake behind you. That wake can displace fishing gear or even people on the fishing boat, which can lead to damages or injury. 

It is best to slow way down when you approach a fishing boat or any other watercraft. 

Passing In Different Situations 

In some cases, you won’t be able to pass a fishing boat properly. Here are some different boating situations and what you should do to ensure you are passing safely. 

Meeting Head-On 

If you are facing a fishing boat head-on, both boats should be able to pass on the port side. Ensure that you communicate with the other captain, slow down, and maintain enough distance between the boats. 

Crossing a Fishing Boat 

For a fishing boat with no gear in the water, you would follow the passing rules for any other watercraft. If your path crosses the path of a fishing boat and that boat is on your right (starboard) side, you would be considered the stand-on boat. This means you would stay on course while the fishing boat — or give-way boat — would yield to you until you have passed them. 

If the fishing boat is approaching from your left (port) side, you would be the give-way boat and need to wait until they pass. In either case, you should follow the same safety rules listed above. 

Night Boating 

No one wants to collide with another boat, especially at night. You can identify which way a boat is facing by finding the colored lights at the bow of the boat and the white light at the stern. For the front lights, the left (port) light is always red, while the right (starboard) light is always green. 

These lights will help you identify which side of the boat you should be passing on as well as the direction the other boat is heading. 

Tight Quarters 

On the chance that you come across a fishing boat in tight quarters, both boats need to steer toward the right to create more space and allow for safe passage. If you cannot safely pass side-by-side, yield to the large boat until they are out of the area. 

The Importance of Passing Correctly 

In every instance of passing a fishing boat or other watercraft, the most important factor is safety. Every boat driver has the responsibility to avoid collisions, especially when collisions can be extremely damaging and even fatal. 

When you pass a boat correctly, you are doing your part to help keep everyone safe. 

Right-of-Way Hierarchy 

No matter the type of boat or watercraft on the water, there is a general ranking of who has the right of way should you come upon each other. This list is ranked from highest priority to lowest. 

  • Overtaken boats
  • Unmanned vessels 
  • Limited maneuverability 
  • Restricted navigation 
  • Active fishing 
  • Sailing 
  • Powerboats 
  • Pedestrians on the water 

Enjoy Boating — and Passing — Safely

Now that you know how to pass a fishing boat or any other watercraft, you’re ready to hit the waves and pass like a pro. If you want to pass other boats with a new or new-to-you boat, Germaine Marine has you covered. We have a variety of boats to match any situation, so you’re sure to find the right boat for your needs. 

Contact our Germaine Marine team to get started on your boat-owning journey today! 

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