Rock fishing safety tips

Rock fishing is one of the most dangerous sports in Australia. On average eight people die each year in NSW from rock fishing-related accidents.

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

On this page

Stay alert to the weather conditions

Always check the weather, severe weather warnings, coastal waters forecast and tide predictions before you leave home and watch them while you're out fishing.

DO NOT rock fish when conditions are dangerous.

  • Never turn your back on the ocean
  • Always watch the waves
  • 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 and or large waves
  • Large seas or swell waves can be hazardous
  • 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
  • Watch the weather and tidal conditions while you're out fishing and be alert to any changes

Learn how to swim

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

Find a swim school near you via Swim Australia.

Choose the safest 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 (rod and line fishers) about the safest areas to fish.
  • Look out for Angel Ring locations. Angel Rings 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.
    Example of an Angel Ring secured at a popular rock fishing location.
    Example of an Angel Ring secured at a popular rock fishing location
  • Take your time to observe the weather and tide conditions. Spend at least 30 mins watching the wind and wave action before choosing a safe location.
  • 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 get washed into the water.

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
  • Under the NSW Rock Fishing Safety Act 2016, by law you and anyone helping you fish, including children, must wear an appropriate lifejacket in declared high risk areas. Make sure you read the Rock fishing lifejacket law and declared areas when planning your trip
  • Wear an appropriate lifejacket that 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.

  • Only Fish with other people and in places where experienced anglers go to fish
  • Always tell someone who is not going fishing with you where you plan 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 (Triple zero) on your mobile phone or go and get help

Rock fishing safety videos


The Office of Emergency Management (OEM): NSW Rock Fishing and Life Jackets

In 2015, Greg Finney almost lost his life in a rock fishing accident. He always wears a life jacket now. He tells his story.


Rock fishing safety

A message from NSW Police about rock fishing safety with Chinese language support.

Useful links

Visit the NSW Department of Primary Industries fishing safety page for more safety tips.

SafeFishing also have a range of brochures, videos and translated information on rock fishing, freshwater fishing and fishing underwater. 

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