How Should You Pass a Fishing Boat? Safety & Courtesy Tips

How should you pass a fishing boat? There are many reasons why you would want to pass a fishing boat, and you will want to do so in a way that is safe and efficient.

In this article, we will look at why you need this skill, how to maneuver around a fishing boat, and frequently asked questions.

Why does it matter?

Knowing how to pass a fishing boat is a very important skill. Today, there can be many boats in the water at a time, which ensures that you will need to know how to pass a fishing boat at some point in your boating career.

You will need to know how to pass a fishing boat properly in order to ensure the safety of both yourself and the other boater. If you do not know how to pass a fishing boat, you could severely damage yourself or those around you.

How to pass a fishing boat

Just like driving on the road, moving and passing in a boat comes with some rules. It may help to think of passing boats on the water as unmarked intersections. The rules make the water less chaotic and promote safe passages through these unmarked intersections.

fishing boats

Before passing a fishing boat, you must get the all-clear from the other captain. The reason for this is that you do not want to pass over their lines. When the other captain gives you the all-clear, you are free to pass.

You begin passing the fishing boat by steering towards the starboard side, which is the ride side of the boat. Steering to the starboard side will cause the fishing boat to be on the port side, or left side of the boat.

Before you steer, though, you will communicate with the other captain that you are steering to the starboard side. You can do this by honking your horn once. Wait for the other captain’s reply, which will allow you to go ahead. Once the captain responds, you can start steering.

If there is something preventing you from steering to the starboard side, that is okay. Communicate with the other boat’s captain that you will be steering towards the port side. This communication ensures that the fishing boat will not get in your way.

You communicate that you are going to the port side by honking your horn twice. Like before, you need to wait until the other captain responds. Once he or she honks back, you are free to steer towards the port side of your boat.

As you pass the fishing boat, try to maintain a minimum wake. Large wakes are an annoyance to boaters, making a minimum wake a common courtesy.

Additionally, large wakes can be dangerous, especially for smaller boats, canoes, or kayaks. Maintaining a minimum wake will protect the safety of the other boaters.

fishing boat passing another boat

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about passing a fishing boat:

What do I do if the captain is not responding to my communicative honks?

If the other captain does not respond to your honk, wait some time. He or she may be needing to arrange some things before giving you the all-clear.

If you have been waiting for a reasonable amount of time, try honking again. Although boat horns are loud, the captain may have been doing something and not have heard your honk.

If the other captain still is not giving you the all-clear or not communicating with you in any way, you may want to consider an alternative route to be safe.

In the case that there is not an available alternative route, you can proceed to pass the fishing boat. While doing this, be very cautious and avoid passing their lines. To help promote safety, you may want to steer your boat wide in the case that they start moving the other boat.

As the boat’s captain, it is your responsibility to practice safe boating techniques. Do everything in your power to avoid harming the other boat or boaters.

How do I maintain a minimum wake?

The wake is the little waves that come off your boat as a result of your speed. Higher wakes occur from fast speeds or increased rpm. These wakes can damage other boats and harm other boaters as well as damage your own fender.

Low wakes, on the other hand, are smaller waves that result from slower speeds. A good rule of thumb is to slow down whenever your boat is within 500 feet of a smaller boat, marina, or shoreline. This rule will help keep you from rocking the other items around you.

You can maintain a smaller wake by slowing down in advance. As soon as you see something that needs smaller wakes, start slowing down by gently hitting the throttle. Hitting the throttle at the last minute will still create large wakes.

If you are trying to maintain no-wake, you will need to trim the outboard to a vertical position. This trim is neutral, which will allow the boat to create a minimal wake.

Can I ever deviate from water rules?

Yes! In fact, the most important boating rule is to prevent any wrecks from occurring. If preventing a wreck involves breaking a rule, it is recommended to break the rule. Safety is the most important aspect of boating, and breaking the rules can sometimes be the safest option.

a group of boats


How should you pass a fishing boat? First, slow down in advance so as not to create large wakes. Then, communicate with the other captain what direction you want to go and wait for his all-clear signal. Once you have the signal, proceed around the fishing boat with as minimal wake as possible. It’s as easy as that!