Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a novice boater, passing a fishing boat can sometimes be a tricky task. You don’t want to disrupt the fisherman’s activity or put anyone in danger by crossing too closely. On the other hand, you don’t want to veer off-course and risk colliding with another vessel either.
In this article, we will explore some useful tips and guidelines on how to pass a fishing boat safely and smoothly. From understanding the right-of-way rules to signaling your intentions and giving an ample berth, we’ll cover all the essential factors that come into play when navigating around fishing boats.
Not only is it important to abide by boating etiquette and safety protocols, but it also pays off to show respect for fellow boaters and fishermen. By being courteous and following proper procedures, you can help foster a positive marine community and avoid any unpleasant encounters.
“Good seamanship involves much more than navigation and boat handling: it’s about awareness, consideration, and common sense.” – Tom Cunliffe
So buckle up and let’s dive into the world of passing fishing boats! Whether you’re cruising through crowded waterways or enjoying a peaceful day on the lake, these principles will come in handy in ensuring a smooth and enjoyable boating experience.
If you frequently sail or boat on water, it is essential for you to understand the navigation lights of different boats and ships. One such type of vessel is a fishing boat that has unique light combinations to signal its position and movements at night or in foggy conditions. Hence, knowing how to pass safely beside a fishing boat involves understanding the meaning of various light patterns displayed by the boat.
To recognize a fishing boat’s navigation lights, you must first familiarize yourself with red, green, and white lights that indicate the side and direction of movement or stationery positions of different types of vessels.
- A green light indicates the right-hand side (starboard) of a ship when moving forward or from behind
- A red light indicates its left-hand side (port) when moving forward or from behind
- A white stern light shows that the vessel’s operator follows the maritime rules and regulations set forth by law
Fishing boats carry these standard navigation running lights as well but use them alongside several other lighting mechanisms to give off specific signals regarding their current activity.
Understand the Meaning of Different Light Combinations
Fishing boats make use of the general rule for all boats to emit specific warning signs after dark if they are stationary or making headway through the water. However, the colours and duration of each light sequence will depend on the specifics of the fishing vessel itself.
The “anchored” light combination: If a fishing boat is anchored in one location at night, they will have yellow lights connected vertically down their masthead. The lower -level light should be visible than the green starboard light, and the white stern-mounted lamp should be visible behind it.
The “not under command” or “restricted in ability to maneuver” light combination: This lighting protocol indicates that a fishing boat is not moving forward at all and its presence may be a hazard to other vessels. A red over green light sequence shows this condition clearly during nighttime operations with white lights mounted on either the port rail or both sails.
The “trawling” light combination: Fishing boats emit different coloured lights while trawling because their position changes based on which direction they are facing as they fish from the back of the boat. Hence, two subcategories are known as port (red) and starboard (green) -side lamps used for indicating your current navigation alignment concerning them.
“The rules governing lighting protocols for trawling would depend on the size of the vessel,” says American Boating Association member Gary Wright. “For example, larger vessels would need higher intensity bulbs.”
The “drifting” light combination: Drifting ships maintain full control over their movement, but can often appear uncertain to other pilots who will encounter them. The yellow lanterns mounted on the masthead’s mid-level clearly signify this unique situation.
The “moving fast through restricted waters” light combination: Vessels traveling fast in water populated by other crafts where visibility is low must carry an additional blue lamp flashing at regular intervals.
The “maneuvering” light combination: Fishing boats require more space than most other types of miniature sail boats when making turns due to their weight, build, and long shape. Hence, if you see a red over green color pattern at night coming toward you, it means that the vessel is choosing to make a course correction.
A general rule of thumb once you approach such vessels: If you come across fishing boats that appear from the distance or out of foggy conditions, ensure slowing down and making enough space for them to pass either on your right-hand side. Always be cautious while navigating around them until visibility improves in the morning.
“Boaters should always look out for changing patterns of coloured lights as they signal specific behaviours by different types of ships,” warns the US Coast Guard
Understanding what each colour signifies and keeping a careful lookout when passing fishing boats with different light combinations can help avoid collisions or risks on the water. Navigation lighting protocols have been put in place specifically to facilitate safety rather than create confusion unless boaters fail to follow proper procedures required by law at all times.
Communicate with the Fishing Boat’s Crew
If you’re on a boating trip, chances are you’ll come across other boats such as fishing boats. It is important to know how to pass them safely without causing any danger. One key factor in keeping safe around these boats is communication. Here are some ways to communicate effectively with the fishing boat crew.
Use Proper Radio Communication Etiquette
The first and most effective way to communicate with a fishing boat at a distance is by using a radio. The use of handheld two-way radios enables you to communicate directly with the fishing boat’s captain. However, it is crucial that you follow radio etiquette when communicating.
You should always wait for a pause before speaking through the radio. This ensures that there is no interference or talking over each other. Also, keep your language clear and concise. Avoid using technical jargon if possible, so the fishermen can easily understand what you say. Saying “over” after finishing your message is also essential to signal that you’re done speaking and awaiting their reply.. Lastly, avoid having long-winded conversations for purposes that could have been passed along quickly.
Learn Hand Signals for Communicating at Close Range
Certain situations might arise where a near distance encounter occurs and radio communication becomes unnecessary. For instance, if you need assistance from the fishing boat or want to alert them of potential safety issues at close range, hand signals come in extremely handy.
The simplest hand signal involves pointing in the direction of where your navigating confirms heading. Pointing either left and right indicates which side you intend to pass subsequent. Another gesture communicates that you do not understand what the fisherman signaled, or they don’t see your signal by circling one arm while extending the other arm straight; mimicking asking “not understood?”. Finally, a thumbs-up gesture indicates that everything is okay and safe.
A boating safety expert Gene Snyder states: “Make sure your hand signals are clear so the other boat can see and decipher them. They should be definite and not vague in any way.”
Remember to use proper communication services such as radios if you’re passing at a distance. Short-range communications require mastering basic hand signals to alert fishermen of your next move.
Slow Down and Give the Fishing Boat Enough Space
Fishing boats are an essential part of the fishing industry, but they can pose a danger to other boaters if not approached properly. When passing by a fishing boat, it is important to reduce your speed and give them enough space to avoid interfering with their operations.
“It’s important for recreational boaters to be proactive in sharing the waterway with commercial fishermen,” says Bob Zales II, President of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO). “Reduce your speed when approaching a fishing vessel, stay alert, observant, and anticipate their movements.”
Reduce Speed when Approaching a Fishing Boat
When approaching a fishing boat, reduce your speed and maintain a safe distance from them. This will allow you to have enough time to observe their patterns and maneuver without risking collision or interference. Additionally, slow speeds minimize the impact of your wake on the fishing boat and its gear. Wakes can cause damage to nets and disrupt shoals, causing fishes to scatter, making it harder for fishermen to catch fish and earn a livelihood.
“Operating at an excessive speed near a working fishing vessel creates unnecessary hazards as well as disrupting the activity of the vessel–skipping overwaves created by large vessels makes the task of managing gear much more difficult,” reminds Michael Sutton, Vice President and Managing Director of Oceans for the Environmental Defense Fund.
Maintain a Safe Distance from the Fishing Boat
When passing by a fishing boat, maintaining a safe distance is critical. It ensures that you do not interfere with the fishing boat’s movement, such as cast netting across the stern, hauling fishing lines or dropping anchors. You should remain vigilant and respect the 200-yard rule – never get closer than 200 yards to a fishing vessel engaged in commercial fishing, unless you’re preparing to pass safely at minimum speed.
“Give working fishermen plenty of room,” says Zales. “A reasonable rule is twice the length away.”
Be Aware of the Fishing Boat’s Trawling Range
Fishing boats that are trawling (dragging nets along the seabed) may extend their range outwardly by several hundred feet into the water column. If you intend to pass ahead of or behind such a vessel, take account of its extended reach both for your safety and theirs. Passing too near when they are towing gear could damage their equipment and put their crewmen at risk of injury.
“It’s important to remember that when they’re on the water, fishermen aren’t just out there having fun – it’s their livelihood,” adds Sutton. “They rely on sensitive fishing equipment, and any disruption can mean hours of work lost or reduced catch.”
Avoid Crossing in Front of the Fishing Boat
The most dangerous place to be is directly in front of a fishing boat. Fishermen tend to focus intently on their jobs concentrating on their equipment rather than looking up to see what lies straight ahead of them. Avoid overtaking closely from astern, which causes either annoyance or anxiety for hardworking fishermen who do not want their efforts interfered with unnecessarily.
“Recreational boaters should avoid coming too close to fishing vessels or crossing within their paths,” warns Sutton. “Not only does this pose major risks to the fishermen themselves, but it also leads to destroyed gear, fish loss, and overall economic hardship”
Taking precautions when passing by a fishing boat will ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing. Reducing speed, maintaining safe distances, being aware of trawling ranges, and avoiding crossing in front of fishing boats can go a long way in keeping everyone safe while enjoying the water. It’s important to be mindful that our actions as recreational boaters have an impact on those who depend on their livelihoods from commercial fishing.
Watch Out for Fishing Lines and Nets
If you’re out on the water, it’s important to watch out for fishing boats. While they may not be as large as commercial cargo or passenger vessels, they still have the potential to cause accidents. One specific hazard that fishing boats pose is their use of lines and nets. As a boater passing by a fishing boat, you need to take extra care to avoid getting caught in these.
Stay Alert for Fishing Lines and Buoys
One way to avoid getting caught up in fishing lines and nets is to stay alert while passing a fishing boat. Look out for any buoys or markers attached to the lines – these are often brightly colored and easily visible but can also be difficult to spot if the lighting conditions aren’t right. Keep an eye out for any other signs of fishing activity such as rods out, catch boxes or even workers on deck actively engaged in fishing.
If possible, try to make yourself known to the crew on board the fishing boat so they know you are somewhere nearby. Just like how hikers will yell “On your left” when approaching from behind, it’s good etiquette letting fisherman know which side to expect you before getting too close.
Avoid Boating Over Fishing Nets or Lines
The easiest way to avoid getting caught in fishing lines or nets altogether is to make sure you don’t boat over them. Try to navigate around fishing areas instead of through them. If you do have to go past a boat with obvious fishing gear deployed, slow down and ideally maneuver around them using the engine rather than steering alone to keep movements predictable and manageable.
When passing by near-fishing boats anchored together with long lines leading out into all different directions always ensure there is enough space between your boat and their fishing lines. If the weather or wind conditions are causing your boat to drift, don’t hesitate to use your engine to take corrective actions
Slow Down if Fishing Lines or Nets are Detected
If you can’t avoid boating over a fishing line or net, then slow down as much as possible. When you do pass immediately monitor the propellers for any signs of fouling. Propeller entanglement with submerged debris such as nets or ropes can quickly turn unsafe if not treated correctly leading to costly repairs but more importantly injuries!
“Boaters must exercise extreme caution around operating commercial fishing boats, as these vessels require additional space and clearance when setting or picking gear,” said Tom O’Rourke, executive director of Northeast Maritime Institute’s Center of Excellence in Maritime Education.”
It is important to remain alert while passing by fishing boats as they pose various risks like using lines and nets. Stay alert for markers on the water that may indicate fishing activity being carried out. Try to keep ample distance between your vessel and any marks indicating fishing activities.
Be Mindful of the Weather and Water Conditions
When out on the water, it’s important to be aware of the conditions around you. The weather and water can change at any moment, so it’s essential to stay informed and prepared.
Check the Weather Forecast Before Heading Out
One of the best ways to ensure a safe and successful trip is to check the weather forecast before heading out. This way, you’ll know what to expect and can make any necessary adjustments to your plans.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “25% of boating accidents are caused by operator inattention or lack of preparation.” Checking the weather forecast can help prevent some accidents and allow for better decision making while on the water.
You can access the latest weather information through various sources such as NOAA’s website, local news channels, or weather apps like AccuWeather or The Weather Channel.
Be Prepared for Changes in Weather Conditions
Remember that weather forecasts can sometimes be inaccurate, and conditions can change quickly. Always be prepared for changes, whether that means bringing extra clothing layers, packing rain gear, or even deciding to abort the trip altogether.
The U.S. Coast Guard recommends monitoring the radio for updates on changing weather conditions and having an alternate plan in case of emergencies.
In addition to being mindful of the weather, understanding how water currents and waves affect navigation is also crucial for safe fishing boat passing.
According to BoatUS Foundation, “A small craft advisory is issued when wave heights reach between 7 feet and 10 feet, which often causes whitecaps on open bodies of water and significantly reduces visibility.” Be aware of these conditions and adjust your plans accordingly.
Water currents can also be a factor in determining the best approach for passing a fishing boat. Make sure you understand how to read water currents, as they can affect how well you’re able to steer your own vessel and pass other boats safely.
“Knowing the tides and their direction is critical when navigating near shallows or around coastlines,” advises professional angler Timmy Horton. “Tidal flows will determine where predator fish lie, food sources gather, and much more.”
Being aware of the weather forecast, understanding how water currents and waves can affect navigation, and preparing for changes are essential factors in safe fishing boat passage. With proper preparation, knowledge, and attention to detail, you can ensure a successful and enjoyable trip on the water.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should you do before attempting to pass a fishing boat?
Before passing a fishing boat, it is important to check for any signals from the boat such as an orange flag or flashing light. This indicates that the boat is actively fishing and you should proceed with caution. You should also slow down and prepare to alter your course if needed. Check for any other boats in the area and maintain a safe distance from the fishing boat.
What should you avoid doing when passing a fishing boat?
When passing a fishing boat, you should avoid creating any wakes that could disrupt the boat’s fishing lines or nets. It is important to maintain a steady speed and direction to avoid any sudden movements that could cause a collision. Avoid passing too closely to the boat and keep a safe distance to ensure the safety of both your boat and the fishing boat.
What is the best way to signal your intentions when passing a fishing boat?
The best way to signal your intentions when passing a fishing boat is to use your horn or whistle to alert the crew of your presence. You can also use hand signals to indicate which direction you plan to pass the boat. It is important to maintain a safe speed and distance and not to pass too closely to the fishing boat. Always be aware of any signals from the fishing boat and adjust your course accordingly.
How far away should you stay from a fishing boat when passing?
You should maintain a safe distance of at least 100 feet from a fishing boat when passing. This allows for the crew to safely operate their fishing lines and nets without any interference from your boat. If the water is crowded, it may be necessary to maintain an even greater distance. Always be aware of any signals from the fishing boat and adjust your course accordingly to maintain a safe distance.
What factors should you consider before passing a fishing boat?
Before passing a fishing boat, it is important to consider the weather conditions, the size of your boat, and the speed and direction of the fishing boat. You should also check for any signals from the fishing boat indicating that they are actively fishing. Be aware of any other boats in the area and maintain a safe distance from the fishing boat. Always be prepared to alter your course if needed to ensure the safety of all boats in the area.
What should you do if the fishing boat is actively casting lines or nets?
If the fishing boat is actively casting lines or nets, you should slow down and maintain a safe distance to avoid getting caught in their lines or nets. It is important to avoid creating any wakes that could disrupt their fishing lines or nets. Be aware of any signals from the fishing boat and adjust your course accordingly to avoid any interference. Always be prepared to alter your course if needed to ensure the safety of all boats in the area.