How should you pass a fishing boat?

Over the past few years, the fishing boat industry has grown tremendously. It is one of the most popular, fun and healthy outdoor activity. With more and more people taking up boating as their hobby each year, there are a lot more boats on the waterways now. Statistics show that there are 13 Million registered recreational boats in the US alone.

Boat statistics

With such an increased number of boats on our seas, lakes, and rivers, there is an ever-increasing threat of accidents. According to national statistics, around 700 people die every year in boating accidents.

So if you are someone who owns a boat and loves boating, there are some navigational rules that you must know for your safety on the water. As a boat captain, it is your responsibility to know the basic mistakes that can happen on the water and how to avoid them. You should have enough knowledge of the navigational rules to handle any emergency situation.

Navigation Rules FAQ

Why is it Important to Know the Navigational rules

Imagine yourself on a road where there is a lot of traffic. You certainly can’t pass that traffic and move forward if you don’t know the traffic rules well enough. Lack of knowledge will cause damage to your vehicle as well as other vehicles on the road.

Just like that, if there are no hard and fast rules on waterways, and everyone just made up their own rules on how to pass other boats. There would definitely be a lot more casualties and accidents on the waterways.

In order to avoid such accidents, there are some rules directed by the Federal laws that you must follow when passing other boats and pay particular attention to your safety as well as of other people on the boat.

How should you pass a fishing boat?

The boats that are used for fishing are called fishing boats. Usually, they are connected with a net and line. There are specific lines on the waterways for the fishing boats, they can’t cross that line and are obliged to stay there. You are also not allowed to cross that line unless you have communicated with the fishing boat captain using signals.

When passing a fishing boat, there are a lot of rules on how to pass it depending on its position and other circumstances.

According to US coast guards navigation rules on passing fishing boats, the vessels should steer to the right-hand side. This way, both boats will then pass each other on their port (left hand) side. When passing a fishing boat, do so with minimum wake, avoiding any fishing lines.

However, you can only pass a fishing boat after signaling the captain and receiving an acknowledgment to pass. There can be two ways to signal the captain of the fishing boat. If you are on the right side of the fishing boat, you have to use one blast to pass. And, if you are on the left side, you have to use two blasts to pass.

While passing, you should always maintain full concentration, having a proper lookout to avoid any unexpected hurdles that could appear during the pass. You can also ask other passengers on your boat to look out for any oncoming boats, swimmers or water bodies so that they can alert you timely.

However, avoiding a collision is a priority in all cases. So as a boat captain you must use your common sense to avoid any collision and danger to your passengers. If that is possible only by passing the boat on a different side, then you should do that.

In other words, you don’t have to stick to the law, if it puts you or others on the water in danger.

What if you are on the fishing boat?

If you are in a fishing boat, then in this situation you are in the leading position. You are allowed to keep your side of the waterway. You can’t speed up or slow down the boat during the pass. You have to maintain a steady speed and let the other boat pass you safely.

Maintaining a safe speed is very important, so always observe the speed limit. As over speeding will not allow you to react in case of any unexpected situation that can happen on the waterways.

For example:

  • A wrong signal from an oncoming boat
  • A sudden large wake from a passing boat
  • Hazards and obstacles
  • Broken boats on the waterways
  • Large water bodies
  • The boat’s draft in relation to the water depth
  • Weather conditions (such as heavy rain, fog)
  • Water conditions (sudden massive waves)
  • A swimmer or a person towed on a wakeboard

As a boat captain, your first and foremost responsibility is to avoid accidents. If you ever forget the navigation rules for passing another boat, you can always communicate with the other captain using the radio. You can discuss the passing rules with them and come up with a passing maneuver that works for both of you.

Who has right of way sailboat or fishing boat?

Whenever two boats try to pass each other on the water, a right of way situation exists. In such situations, one boat is obligated to give way to the other boat. The boat that is supposed to give way is called the “give way vessel” and the other one is called the “stand on the vessel”.

When the two passing boats are a sailboat and a fishing boat, a fishing boat always has the right of way over the sailboat. This means that the fishing boat is allowed to keep its waterway as its maneuverability is restricted by fishing equipment.

Final Words

If you are a boat captain or own a kayak, no matter how experienced you are, you should have knowledge of basic navigational rules. Just like the road traffic rules, US coast guard also keeps updating the water legislation and water tracks. You should keep yourself updated with the relevant information to avoid any unexpected accidents.

If you are not aware of the US coast guard rules, you will be putting yourself and others on your boat on serious risks of accidents.

If you still have any confusion or question regarding boating safety and passing rules, contact the U.S. coast guard, or reference the navigational rules. The US coast guard publishes the navigational rules which can be purchased or read online at

Frequently Asked Questions

Which side do you pass an oncoming boat?

Each boat should alter course to the starboard side (right side) and pass port to port (left side).

When another boat is approaching from your right?

A boat approaching from your right (starboard) side has always right of way. And if you are approaching another board from its right side, you have the right of way.

Michael Holding

Michael is an outdoor adventurer and a kayaking enthusiast who loves to share his experiences with others. He is the Chief Editor at XgearHub.

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