Water Safety NSW > Rock Fishing Safety


Safety Tips​​

Rock fishing is one of the most dangerous sports in Australia. The majority of rock fishing-related deaths in Australia occur in NSW, with an average of eight people losing their lives in NSW every year. 

​​Above: Water Police rescue rock fisherman after being washed out to sea at Dover Heights.

The safety tips on this page will help you minimise the risks as you plan your rock fishing outing. 

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has more tips on fishing safety.

  • Stay alert to the weather conditions
  • Learn how to swim
  • Choose the safest possible location
  • Wear the right gear
  • Never fish alone
  • What to do if someone is washed into the ocean
  • Wear a lifejacket

Stay alert to the weather conditions

Check the weather and the tide conditions before you leave home and monitor them while you're out fishing.

DO NOT rock fish when conditions are dangerous.

  • High tides can cover your rock fishing spot with water.
  • Rising tides and high tides make waves break onto rock fishing locations.
  • You might get trapped or swept off your rock fishing spot by a high tide.
  • Large seas or swell waves can be hazardous.
  • You might get swept off your rock fishing spot by large waves.
  • Strong winds can create hazardous waves or push you off wet, slippery rocks.
  • If you are fishing in an exposed area during rough seas, find a calmer spot.
  • Monitor the weather and tidal conditions while you're out fishing and be alert to any changes.
  • Check for severe weather warnings.
  • Check the coastal waters forecast.
  • Check tide predictions.  
  • Always watch the waves. 
  • Never turn your back on the ocean.

Learn how to swim

Learn how to swim so you have the best chance of surviving if you get washed into the water.

Choose the safest possible location

  • Always check and understand the weather conditions and tides before you leave home. This will help you to choose the safest possible location to go fishing.
  • Ask local people and experienced anglers who know the area about the safest possible locations to fish.
  • Look for Angel Ring locations. Angel Rings (see below) are lifebuoys installed at popular rock fishing spots across NSW. Angel Rings can keep a person afloat and away from the rocks until help arrives.  
  • Take time to observe the weather and tide conditions. Spend at least half an hour watching the wind and wave action before deciding whether a location is suitable as your fishing spot.
  • Think about what your fishing spot might be like in a few hours if the weather and tides change.
  • Plan an escape route in case you are washed into the water.
Photo of an Angel Ring secured at a popular rock fishing locationAbove: An example of an Angel Ring secured at a popular rock fishing location.

Wear the right gear

Always make sure you are wearing the right safety gear when you go rock fishing. Wearing the right gear can stop you from slipping into the water and can save your life.

  • Always wear a lifejacket.
  • Find out about lifejacket laws.
  • Find out which lifejacket is best for you.
  • Always wear appropriate footwear with non-slip soles or cleats. Rock plates or cleats are essential on wet, weedy rocks.
  • Always wear lightweight clothing. Together with your lifejacket, lightweight clothing will weigh you down less.

Never fish alone

No place is perfectly safe for rock fishing.

  • Fish only with other people and only in places where experienced anglers go to fish.
  • Make sure you tell someone who is not going fishing with you where you are planning to go.

What to do if someone is washed into the ocean

DO NOT jump into the water after anyone.

  • Look for an Angel Ring, a lifebuoy or something else that floats and throw it to the person in the water to hold onto.
  • Dial 000 on your mobile phone or go and get help.
Wear a lifejacket - Don't risk your life