Rock Fishing

man wearing lifejacket fishing from rocks

Is catching a fish worth your life?

Rock fishing – fishing from rock ledges, submerged rocks, rock faces and rocks protruding into the water – is possibly the most dangerous sport in Australia. Despite the risks, our beautiful Western Australian coastline and good fishing conditions make it a popular hobby for many in regional areas.

However, isolated locations, the unpredictable nature of the ocean and slippery, uneven, and often sharp surfaces contribute to the high fatality rate among the sport. Sudden large waves combined with slippery rock surfaces increase the chance of fishers being swept into the water. Rescues can be obstructed due to a lack of lifesaving equipment and high swells that can prevent sightings of the victim.

In WA alone, there were 28 rock fishing deaths recorded during the ten years to June 2020. The majority of these occurred in regional WA, often at locations notorious for high swells and poor weather conditions.

Royal Life Saving WA encourages people to avoid rock fishing due to its inherent danger, but we understand that some will continue to choose to take part. We urge those who do to follow the tips below to fish as safely as possible!

What to wear when rock fishing:

  • Always wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD)
  • Wear shoes with non-slip soles or cleats, especially on wet and weedy rocks.
  • Wear lightweight clothing that won’t weigh you down if you are swept off the rocks (jumpers may be heavy and difficult to take off). 
  • If possible, wear head protection. Evidence suggests that many people who have drowned received some type of head injury.

Choosing a spot for rock fishing:

No place is perfectly safe for rock fishing, but to minimise the risks;

  • Never fish alone.
  • Fish only at renowned and easily accessible locations.
  • Spend at least half an hour watching the wind and wave action before deciding whether a place is suitable. Know how the weather and changing tide will affect the location.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean.
  • If the waves, weather or swell threaten your fishing spot then leave immediately.

What to do if you (or someone else) gets into trouble:

If you do find yourself in trouble, remain calm. If you are swept into the water, swim away from the rocks and look for a safe place to come ashore. If this isn’t possible, stay afloat while your companions call 000 (mobile phone users can also dial 112 to access emergency services).

Learn more at Recfishwest's Fish and Survive program for more details.


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