How should you pass a fishing boat?

How should you pass a fishing boat? Well, there are different techniques of passing a fishing boat, but, it depends on the speed of the passing boat and the distance between the two boats. It also depends on what time of the day it is, weather, wind speed and direction, boat size, and boat type.

Usually, fishing boats have the right of way and it’s just good common sense to give them space. When approaching a fishing vessel, slow down and give them space for their safety.

If you’re in a small powerboat and find yourself on a crossing course with a fishing boat, don’t panic.

small fishing boat
Small fishing boat

Is there any concern when passing fishing boats?

Fishing boats are a common sight on the water, especially during summer. However, passing too close to them can be potentially dangerous and irritating – not only for fishermen but also for you as you will inevitably meet some kind of trouble while going by their area.

On the other hand, many fishermen see boaters as irresponsible people who don’t know how to pass properly by fishing areas. Yet, this is not totally true as there are many boaters with good intentions who don’t want any harm to come to them while passing through an area where fishing boats might be present.

Fisherman trawling her net
Fisherman trawling her net

Most of the time, even if the fisherman sees that you’re moving too quickly – he will still let you pass even though it’s against his will. However, there are those who would have something to say if they were bothered by your actions.

How should you pass a fishing boat?

Approach carefully

Never approach a fishing boat from behind – always make sure the fishermen can see you coming. If you hear a bell ring it means the vessel is working and you should slow down right away. But you should never stop near a fishing boat unless it’s an emergency situation.

Make safe distance

Always maintain a safe distance – don’t get too close to the fishing boats. Never approach a vessel at an angle to its course. Keep well to port or starboard side, going behind the boat if necessary.

If you need to pass a fishing boat, make sure to stay in your own lane and don’t crowd them. Always remember that respect for other vessels is the key to safe boating.

When going on shallow water, make sure there are no fishing vessels or any other boats that might be around. Don’t go close to the rocks/shoreline when you see fishermen working in their nets.

Be aware of fishing nets or underwater objects

fishing net with buoy
Fishing net with buoy

Be aware that some fishing boats may be equipped with underwater equipment and it’s dangerous if you’re not paying attention. Don’t overtake or pass a fishing vessel when they are hauling gear, trawling, or towing nets. Stay at least 200 meters (656 feet) away from vessels hauling nets/gear or trawling. Don’t try to make any sudden movements when there are fishing nets in the water.

When you see fishing nets in the water, look out for “snares” around them. They might not be visible – but you can still hit them with your boat. Pay attention to what’s going on in the water and make sure there are no other potential dangers for your boat.

When you see a yellow fishing buoy, it means that the area is popular among fishermen and there’s plenty of fishing nets nearby. Always slow down when passing by this kind of buoy.

Keep a sharp lookout for other vessels

Look out poster
Look out poster

Pay attention to other vessels in the area and be ready to change your course quickly. Use the engine to make your boat turn as fast as possible so that you avoid the collision.

Keep your eyes on the horizon at all times. Make sure the way is clear and that there are no obstacles between your boat and where you plan to go.

Follow rules of the road

When boating, always follow the rules of navigation and leave lights on when you’re underway. If you follow these simple rules, you will greatly decrease your chances of a fishing boat accident. If you’re unsure about some of these rules – it’s always better to be on the safe side and ask for further instructions from fishermen.

Contact via VHF radio

VHF radio
VHF radio

When boating in public waters, always carry a VHF radio. These radios can be an important tool both for you and fishermen as they could send some kind of signal if they see you’re in danger.

Don’t hesitate to ask the fishermen to slow down when you see that they are too close to your boat/vessel. Leave them time to get out of your way – let them know what’s happening and that they should go slower in order for you to pass by without problems.

Be ready with a VHF radio in case there’s an emergency situation and you need immediate assistance.

Protect your boat from damage caused by fishing nets

Even though you do your best to be careful, there are times when you’re not able to predict what’s ahead of you and accidentally hit a fishing net set up by fishermen on your path.

It’s normal to get into this kind of situation at least once in your boating life, so you better know how to deal with it. While hitting a net might not damage your boat – if the hit is hard enough – it can still cause some damage even if it doesn’t sink. In order to avoid any unnecessary problems, you should get yourself a boat net protector before going out on the water.

Some of these protectors are made from heavy-duty materials that will keep your boat safe even if you hit a hard object like fishing nets or rocks. The protector might become damaged but it will be able to protect the hull from any punctures that can cause water to stream inside. 

Bottom Line

It is essential that you know the guidelines for passing through fishing areas in order to avoid any issues with boaters or fishermen on the boat. 

On a side note – always check whether there are any restricted areas for boats before going into the fishing area in order to avoid any trouble.

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