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How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat (Safely)?

Spending time on the water can be so refreshing. We look forward to a good boat day. Being able to see your reflection on the crystal clear blue waters, while you cruise around.

Spending time with family and friends, out on the sea. There’s not another feeling quite like it. Being on the water is freeing. But there are rules when it comes to boating.

How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat

If you are someone who goes on the water regularly then you might know the basic rules. For those who don’t, the best advice is to give surrounding boats plenty of room in the water. This will help with maintaining safety on the water.

However, it can get a bit more complicated when learning how to pass a fishing boat safely. Fishing boats have nets and lines that might not be visible at the surface of the water.

So, because we understand that learning how you should pass a fishing boat safely can be difficult, we’ve created a guide to help you.

Why Is It Important To Cross A Fishing Boat Safely?

So many people have recreational boats or are able to hire them, which increases the risk of accidents happening.

So the general rule of giving other boaters plenty of space is important for helping to reduce the number of accidents that happen. This rule becomes vital when passing fishing boats. However, just giving them plenty of space isn’t always enough.

If you thought the risk of accidents was high because of how many people have access to boats, it is even higher when a fishing boat is in the picture. As we mentioned before, with fishing boats there may be nets and lines that you are unable to see.

If your vessel accidentally catches fishing lines or nets, it can cause damage to the boat and cause injury to people. Crossing these nets and lines could cause the boats to collide.

This is why it is so important to know how to pass a fishing boat safely, to prevent collisions.

How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat Safely?

How Should You Pass A Fishing Boat Safely

To help you pass a fishing boat safely, we’ve created some simple steps for you to follow, that will prevent any issues or help you navigate any issues that you face.

Be Aware

This is one of the most important steps in preventing accidents from happening. Regardless of the conditions, inside or outside of the boat you should be continuously checking the area you are cruising in.

We know it is fun to drink and party on a boat. However, if you are in control of the boat, you need to be aware of your surroundings. This means keeping a lookout for people in the water, other boats, or any obstacle you might encounter.

To help you, keep checking on the radio and the radar if there is one in your boat. When you are passing a fishing boat, being aware of what’s around you is even more important.

You need to be aware of fishing lines or nets in the water. At the same time as watching out for fishing nets, you also need to be aware of other boaters.

Slow Down

Now that you have spotted the fishing boat and you are aware of what’s around you, it is time to slow down.

It is best to start slowing down before you have passed the fishing boat. This means you’ll have more control over your vessel and more time to react. If you slow down it will also help you avoid having created a big wake.

It is also worth noting that, to stay safe when boating you should be following the speed limits that the zone you are in has.


Not everyone values the importance of waiting. However, one thing you should do before passing a fishing boat is to wait for the all-clear.

This is a great safety precaution but it is also just respectful. If you are not sure what the all-clear signal is, most boats will use their horn to tell you it is safe to pass.

Pass On The Port

Pass On The Port

You’ve got the all-clear and you’ve slowed down. So which side should you pass on? Similar to driving, when you pass someone you should pass them on the left.

To pass on the port side you must steer towards the starboard (or right). This means that both boats will end up passing each other on their port sides.

Before you pass, you need to let the other boat know you are. To do this, you should sound your horn one. If they are also ready, they will reply with a short burst of their own horn.

However, sometimes you are unable to pass on the port side. This might be because their fishing lines and nets are in the water on their port side. If this is the case, don’t panic. You can pass them on the starboard side. If you do this you are taking on what we call the stand-on role.

To pass them safely, you need to tell them you are passing on the starboard side by sounding your horn twice. If they reply with two sounds of their horn, you are safe to pass.


Since we have the all-clear, it’s time to pass. When you pass, it is best to be slow so you avoid making any wakes. Large wakes are potentially dangerous as they can rock boats, which might lead to someone being thrown overboard.

It is best to pass wide when passing a fishing boat to avoid being caught up in any lines. Another tip is to pass the fishing boat in neutral so no nets or lines get caught on your propellers.

Breaking The Rules

The rules on how to pass a fishing boat have been put in place to help avoid collisions and accidents. However, in order to stay safe, you may have to break a rule or two.

You might find yourself in a situation with an inexperienced boater. If they are not sure of what to do, it is up to you to maintain safety. This means taking any steps to help prevent an accident from happening.

As will all rules, they are in place to help protect your boat from damage and people from being injured. If you remain aware of any hazards and what you are doing you should be able to navigate any potential hazards safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Hierarchy Of Right Of Way?

Even when in a boat certain people have the priority or the right of way. In terms of the right of way, the usual rule is that boats that are being overtaken by another have the hierarchy of right of way. Also, it is worth noting that unmanned boats have priority above all.

Other vessels with the right of way, starting with those who have the most priority are boats that are not able to manoeuver much, those with their navigation restricted, fishing boats that are actively working. Then are the bottom of the priority list are sailboats and powered boats.

What Are The Protocols When Passing A Fishing Boat?

The protocol for when passing a fishing boat or any vessel is that one boat takes the ‘stand-on role and the other takes the ‘give-way role. The stand-one boat is the one actively passing and the give-way boat yields to the former.

Both boats must signal when they are about to move or stop.

What Happens If You Hit Another Boat?

If you collide with another boat, you should make sure everyone is safe and is wearing a lifejacket. Once you have ensured everyone is safe, check the damage. Make sure there is no water rising in the boat. If your boat seems relatively fine, swap details with the other boat.

However, if you find that there is a lot of damage to your boat and you are not safe, seek assistance. You should contact the local emergency services immediately if someone is hurt or there is the possibility someone could get hurt.

If someone else is to blame, report this to the emergency services. You should also contact an attorney or your insurance company to report the accident to them.


This brings us to the end of learning how you should pass a fishing boat safely. Hopefully, you feel fully prepared for being out on the water and feel confident in your ability to avoid any collisions.

Remember to be responsible when out on the water. Regardless of what you have learned today, make sure you are aware of the rules and regulations in the zone you are cruising on. If you are ever unsure of how to proceed, remember to be cautious, slow down, and if possible communicate with others near you.

With that being said, we wish you the best of luck when you are out on the water. We hope we have been able to help you today.

Lucas Jones