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The Essential Guide to Passing Fishing Boats Safely – Expert Tips and Strategies

a fishing boat at sea

If you love boating, you know how exciting it can be to hit the open waters and explore the vast expanse of the sea. However, as is the case whenever you’re driving a vehicle, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only boat out there, and there are other vessels around that you must watch out for. When you’re out on the open waters, the boat you’re most likely to see is a fishing boat. 

In addition to taking pre-sail safety checks, and to preparing your vehicle for the water, knowing how to pass these boaters safely is crucial as it ensures that both you and the fishermen can enjoy your time on the water safely.

In this article, we’ll take you through the essential guide to passing fishing boats safely. We’ll cover everything you need to know, from understanding fishing boat signals to navigating your boat around them. So, whether you’re a seasoned boater or a beginner, read on to learn how to pass fishing boats safely and avoid any accidents or mishaps.

Essential Tips for Passing Fishing Boats Safely

Understanding Fishing Boat Signals

Fishing boats often use signals to communicate with other boats, including speed and direction changes. Understanding these signals is crucial to avoid any collisions or boating mishaps. Here are some of the most common fishing boat signals you need to know:

  • Two short blasts on the horn: This means that the fishing boat is changing direction to the right.
  • Three short blasts on the horn: This means that the fishing boat is changing direction to the left.
  • One short blast on the horn: This means that the fishing boat is reversing its direction.
  • Five or more short blasts on the horn: This is an emergency signal and indicates that the fishing boat needs assistance.

Giving Way to Fishing Boats

When passing fishing boats, it’s important to give them the right of way. Fishing boats have limited mobility and can’t change their course quickly, so you need to be patient and wait for them to pass. Here are some tips for giving way to fishing boats:

  • Slow down: Reduce your speed and maintain a safe distance from the fishing boat. Don’t try to overtake them quickly.
  • Avoid crossing their fishing lines: Fishing boats have long lines that trail behind them, and crossing them can be dangerous. Keep a safe distance and avoid crossing their lines.
  • Keep a lookout for their signals: Pay attention to the fishing boat’s signals and adjust your course accordingly.
  • Reach Out: If possible, communicate with the fishermen and let them know your next moves.

Navigating Around Fishing Boats

When you are navigating your boat around fishing boats, it is crucial for you to keep a safe distance while also being aware of your surroundings. We have detailed here a few tips for navigating around oncoming fishing boats:

  • Keep a safe distance: Maintain a safe distance from the fishing boat to avoid any collisions or accidents.
  • Watch out for floating debris: Fishing boats often leave debris in the water, such as nets and buoys.
  • Be aware of your wake: Your boat’s wake can cause damage to the fishing boat and disrupt the fisherman’s catch. Slow down and minimize your wake when passing fishing boats.
  • Use your navigation lights: Make sure your navigation lights are on and visible, especially during low-light conditions.


Q: Can I overtake a fishing boat?

A: You can overtake a fishing boat, but make sure to do so at a safe distance and speed.

Q: What’s the minimum distance for passing a boat?

A: You should maintain a safe distance from the fishing boat, which is typically at least 100 feet. However, if you need to pass the fishing boat, you can get closer but make sure to do so slowly and with caution.

Q: A fishing boat is in my way, how do I proceed?

A: Slow down and wait for the fishing boat to pass. Don’t try to maneuver around them quickly or aggressively, as this can be dangerous.

Q: Are there any specific rules for passing fishing boats?

A: There are no specific rules for passing fishing boats, but it’s important to follow general boating safety guidelines and give way to the fishing boat.


Passing fishing boats safely is an important aspect of boating that every boater should know. By understanding fishing boat signals, giving way to fishing boats, and navigating around them safely, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable time on the water. Remember to always maintain a safe distance from fishing boats, watch out for their signals, and communicate with the fishermen if possible. By following these tips and guidelines, you can safely pass fishing boats and avoid any accidents or mishaps.
Are you looking for more vehicle tips? See our blog post on Giving Up Your Second Car.