According to rules stated on the “passing fishing boats” section by the US Coast Guard, you should always steer to the right (starboard) when passing a fishing boat.
Whether you are an old veteran or new to boating, you should always pay attention to the navigation rules. These rules change a lot, so it is important that you keep yourself updated on these rules.
It’s your responsibility as a boat owner to maintain safe practices when you are on the water. You need to ensure the safety of your own vessel as well as the safety of others that are out there.
You are free to ride your boat however you want if it is on an empty lake. However, while taking a detour on a busy water body, there are certain responsibilities. Along with boaters like you, there are boats that are carrying goods, and some could even be fishing vessels.
Those boats follow a certain route, and you don’t want to mess up their daily commute. Especially from ships and boats, you will need to keep a safe distance.
In this article, I’m going to show some tips to avoid collision and safely pass a fishing boat.
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What Is The Deal With Passing A Fishing Boat?
Regarding passing a fishing boat, it is common for new boaters to get confused. Is a fishing vessel really that dangerous? Are there any risks involved when boating near a fishing boat? Let’s find out.
Let’s talk about trawlers and non-trawlers. There are fishing boats that go out for deep-sea fishing, and there are boats that are only used for freshwater fishing. Fishing vessels that go out for deep-sea fishing are usually larger. Even then, these boats can be either a trawler or a non-trawler.
- Trawler & Non-Trawler
The difference between a trawler and a non-trawler is that trawlers have nylon made trawler nets that are suspended from the poles. The catch fish, the net has to go deeper, and for that reason, there are heavy chains attached to the ends of the net.
Because of how fishing is done in deeper waters, the nets and ropes sometimes spread for yards. Do you see where the danger lies? It is because of the unseen nets and ropes that make passing a fishing boat such a danger.
Even non-trawlers have huge ropes that are suspended from the poles. But those ropes spread over the water and is more visible. Non-trawlers are used in oceans where it is difficult to pull nets because of the ocean current.
Fish are caught in the net as they swim into it. Since these nets are usually spread across a kilometer, you are not allowed to pass over it unless the captain gives you a green signal.
How To Pass A Fishing Boat?
In the following section, I’m going to go through some of the important navigation rules and good practices so that you can safely pass a fishing boat when you come across one. However, sometimes, things will not go according to plan, and in those situations, the tips I’ll be showing will surely help you.
Remember that these tips are not hard and fast. This means, in the event of an uncertain situation, don’t panic and improvise. Try to remember most of them and use them only when the right situation arises.
1. Maintaining A Consistent Speed
This tip should be strictly followed if you are on a fishing boat. Maintain a consistent speed. Don’t just randomly anchor your boat. Since you are the one driving a fishing vessel, you shouldn’t under-speed or over-speed your boat.
You should also check the safety measures of your own boat and other boats around you. While fishing at night, use lights to guide and give a signal to other boaters. In this situation, it’s your duty to communicate and signal other boaters to let them know when it safe to pass by.
Remember, you are the way giver now, not the other way around. Other boaters are waiting for your clear signal to safely pass you by.
2. Passing An Anchored Fishing Boat
How do you pass an anchored fishing boat? First of all, whenever you see an anchored fishing vessel, maintain a safe distance. Depending on the situation, you can steer away from the boat at the starboard side. However, it is best to honk first and wait for a clear signal from the fishing boat.
3. Passing A Fishing Boat At Night
You should always take more precautions at night. Some of the boaters prefer night fishing. This can be challenging and dangerous at the same time. You will notice that most fishing boats have two lights. The lights are on the front side and have two colors.
You should always limit your speed during night time and observe the lights. The right light is green, and the left one is red. Greenlight flashing means the boat is steering to the right (starboard), and red means it is steering to the left (port side).
The stern houses a white light. This white light is at the backside of the boat and located high up. You can follow this light to know where the boat is going.
4. In A Narrow Situation
When you come face to face with a large fishing vessel on a narrow way, always steer to the starboard side and wait for the boat to pass you by.
5. Checking For Obstructions
Whenever you are passing a fishing boat, always check for obstruction. It’s not that easy if you are alone. So, when you have crew members on board, ask them to check for any oncoming boats.
If not, you can go check by yourself and then proceed. Obstruction doesn’t mean only oncoming boats. It can also be surfers, sailboats, or anchoring poles.
This is a mandatory rule that should always be followed whenever you are passing any boat. Honk once if you are passing through your starboard side. Also, when you honk once, you should wait for the opposing boat to honk once. This is a way of signaling you by the other boater that it is clear to pass on the starboard side.
If you are passing through your port side, honk the horn twice and wait for the other boat to do the same. Also, make sure to lower down the speed of your boat. It’s a matter of communication, so you should always take things slow.
7. Face To Face
When you are in a face-to-face situation, and there is no space on the starboard side, you should steer left and pass the approaching fishing boat while maintaining a safe distance.
8. Stand On Boat Situation
The common practice is to steer towards the starboard side whenever you are passing a fishing boat. To avoid a collision, the steer of a boat is always on the right side. This makes it easy to change direction in these sorts of situations.
However, you become the stand-on boat when the approaching fishing vessel is coming towards the starboard side. In this situation, you should wait for the signal. Usually, it will be one honk for the oncoming boat. It would be best if you then honked your horn once to give a clear signal.
On the other hand, there will be times when the lines of a fishing boat are cast towards the shore. This makes it impossible to pass it on that point. This is where communication plays a vital role. You can radio the captain on the boat to get a clear guideline.
Conscious decisions are the key whenever you are passing a fishing boat. My last piece of advice would be to always follow proper regulations and keep an eye out for any obstructions. And that concludes our article on how you should pass a fishing boat.