Jan 09


In order to fly flags correctly, we need to understand the various types of flags and where they should be displayed on the boat. There are national flags, signal flags, burgees and pennants. With a focus on sport-fishing boats, which, over the years, have adapted the naval and yachting protocol of signal flags, such as the fish flags commonly found flying from outriggers in many areas, you can always check out a chandlers for the correct flags for other purposes.


Your national flag, or ensign, should be selected according to where the boat is registered. If you are a New Zealand documented or registered vessel, fly the Kiwi flag; if you are foreign flagged, you would use the flag of your home country, and so on. Ensigns historically flew on the fantail of ships and yachts. Since a fantail flag would get in the way of fishing operations, fly the national flag on the center of the boat up high from a tower, typically from the flagstaff that hangs down from the aft end of the tower floor or one that stands up on the top of the aft end of the hardtop. Burgees are typically flags that signal your affiliation with either a yacht or fishing club. Club burgees are to be flown from the forward masthead, typically from the bow rail.

Fish Flags

Fish flags are signal flags with a great deal of historical significance. Common sense and courtesy should factor into what should be applied when flying or not flying fish flags. At their simplest, fish flags are a form of marketing for charter skippers, but let;s face it, there is a lot of pride in a crew bringing in any game fish, in particular with a first catch, flying the flag lets everyone know you are coming in after having put in some effort and skill it also gives harbour watchers a chance to get down to the wharf for a look at the weigh in, (this author loves doing that).

When flying fish flags, take a cue from the pros: Place the flags on the rigger in order of species size. If you catch a blue marlin, a white marlin, a sailfish and a couple yellowfin tuna, you fly them in that order from top to bottom, with billfish taking precedence over tuna.

If you follow protocol with signal flags, they should be flown on the port rigger, so when you pass boats port to port, the other vessel can easily see what you have caught. Also, it is important to not stack the flags grommet to grommet. Space the flags apart on the rigger at a minimum of one flag apart from each other; this lets them be seen and identified more easily from a distance. Never run the flags all the way to the top of the rigger; keep them about three quarters up the rigger, as this also makes it easier to see them from a distance and up close.






Know Your Flags

Dive flags

It is a legal requirement that a dive flag is displayed. It must be able to be seen and identified from 200m away. The minimum legal flag size is 600mm high by at least 600mm long. It must be clearly visible even when there is no wind.

A watch keeper or boatman left on the dive boat must be instructed to wave the flag so that it can be seen by any approaching vessel. A three dimensional rigid mounted flag is necessary if no watch keeper stays on board.

The flag means a diver is in the water, it informs other boat users to keep well clear and move at a slow speed. All other boat users must maintain at least 200m distance from the flag or keep their speed to less than 5 knots.


New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council INC Bylaws 2011 includes Catch Flags as set out below. These flags measure 70 cm x 35 cm

BROADBILL White Flag with Blue fish

Related image

MARLIN Blue with White Fish

TUNA White with Blue Fish

SHARK Red with White Fish



TAGGED FISH Red with White T

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>