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Why Should Boaters Slow Down While Passing Recreational Fishing Boats?

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

why should boaters slow down while passing recreational fishing boats

Why should boaters slow down while passing recreational fishing boats? Is there a reason these navigation rules exist? It’s a question that touches upon not only safety but also the essence of responsible and considerate waterway navigation.

When boats go at a fast speed, the wakes they create can be strong enough to rock or even capsize small fishing vessels. Given the potential dangers, it’s understandable that navigators should slow down their ships when passing others.

Let’s explore why it’s not just a choice, but a responsibility for you and everyone else to ease up their pace when overtaking these peaceful vessels.

The Safety Risks of Passing Fishing Boats at High Speeds

Believe it or not, even a choice as seemingly harmless as deciding to pass a fishing boat at top speed can be linked to fatal boating accidents. You only need to look at the following safety risks to see why.

1. It Can Create Large Waves.


These waves may not just rock the boat, mind you. I’ve been boating long enough to witness a small fishing vessel being swayed violently by a speeding boat that whizzes by, causing all its occupants (people and gear alike) to fall overboard.

Someone might get hit in the head or break a bone. It’s nothing short of catastrophic for many anglers and just goes against basic boating etiquette.

2. Heightens the Risk of Collision.


The term “safe speed” is the mainstay of responsible boating. Speeding past fishing boats may not give the operator an opportunity to take the necessary action to avoid a collision.

There’s also the fact that the anglers are likely focused on getting a catch. It will be hard for them to react on time.

3. May Startle the Fish.


All that turbulence is bound to scare the fish away. And nothing will ruffle any serious fisher’s feathers than losing a potentially great catch.

Legal Requirements Tied to Boat Speed and Etiquette


  • The local speed limit in your area will always be dictated by the state you reside in. Some states also set limits based on a certain distance, usually dictated by specific things like docks, shores, and anchored boats.

It goes without saying that every boater should also be aware of the specific speed limits in their area – and follow them closely!

  • Going back to the importance of safe speed, it’s safe to say that every boater should maintain it. They should always be mindful of it with regard to the present boat traffic, weather, visibility, and the presence of nearby vessels and swimmers.
  • It’s equally important to stick to the legal boating age as set by your state. Remember that if you’re not at that age yet, you have to be accompanied by an adult.

Importance of Being Courteous to Other Boaters


  • It safeguards lives – and limbs. Instead of deriving joy from intercepting fishing boats minding their own business, get it instead from knowing that you’re respecting them and keeping everyone’s safety a priority.
  • In the end, if everyone’s courteous, it only makes fostering a culture of respect on the local waterways easier.
  • Speeding past fishing boats is very disrespectful, considering the fact that people deliberately chose that specific tranquil environment to fish, only for some rude person to ruin everything for them.

The point is, over time, every newbie boater will realize that it pays to be friendly to other folks enjoying the water. After all, you never know when you’ll need to be in a risky situation and will need help.

Safety Tips While Passing Recreational Fishing Boats

Want to avoid accidents near fishing boats when passing them? It’s as simple as remembering and following these guidelines:

1. Reduce Speed and Wake


Slow your boat down to a no-wake speed, which in most cases shouldn’t exceed 5 miles per hour. Eliminating your wake is crucial to prevent disturbing anglers, their lines, and the fish.

2. Pass on the Correct Side


The correct side, in this case, is the port (left) side. Signal your intention to pass by sounding two short horn blasts that shouldn’t last more than a second each.

If you see that it’s not possible to pass on the port side due to circumstances that may arise, you can always pass on the starboard side instead.

You can alert the vessel with a single short horn blast for this. If the vessel responds with the same sound, you can safely pass it.

3. Recognize the Right of Way

Keep in mind that fishing boats with their lines or nets cast will always have the right of way based on nautical laws. These watercraft are considered to have limited maneuverability naturally.

As such, it’s the responsibility of all other vessels to take the necessary measures to ensure that a collision will be avoided. Should you crash into one, know that the fishing boat will likely not bear legal responsibility for it.

4. Maintain a Safe Distance


There’s no better way to avoid collisions than to maintain a safe distance of at least 100 yards from any fishing boat within your vicinity. This distance is considered the safest because it’s also the standard gauge for avoiding tangling lines.

Should you happen to go near them, be sure to shift your boat into neutral as you pass to prevent the prop from getting caught in the lines.


Overall, the question, “Why should boaters slow down while passing recreational fishing boats?” is rooted in upholding nautical etiquette and safety, which are all vital elements every boater should uphold.

Besides, isn’t recreational fishing called that way because it’s characterized by serenity, calmness, and everybody just staying cool? Let’s all strive to keep it that way for everyone’s benefit and peace of mind! It will be easier to catch those elusive fish, too!

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