Surf Life Saving NSW Swim Between The Flags

Rock Fishing

Rock fishing one of Australia's most popular sports that can be enjoyed by everybody, but it can also be dangerous, with an average of eight people losing their lives rock fishing in NSW every year. A lot of these incidents can be avoided by being properly prepared.

Planning Your Trip: What Do You Need To Know?

Getting out and involved in the action is what rock fishing is all about, but there are some important factors to plan before you do.

What are the tides doing?

Finding the best spot to cast your line can often mean accessing dangerous rock platforms. While this can get you into great position for angling, always remember that what may have been a relatively easy walk at low tide can become challenging, if not near-impossible for a fully clothed angler with gear. 

To avoid getting caught out:

  • Check the tide tables so you know when and if the water will be rising.
  • Try to avoid long fingers of rock which can only be reached at very low tides, as these can leave you stranded.
  • Be especially careful when visibility is bad around dusk.

Check the weather

For professionals, rock fishing can be an all-weather sport, but you should be prepared for what the elements can throw at you. Getting caught in a storm is never fun, and it can be life threatening on an exposed rock ledge.

Be sure to check the latest forecast on either the internet, radio or TV (Bureau of Meteorology, Seabreez.com, Coastalwatch or Willyweather) before you set out, so you know what to expect. Remember to be sensible and call it quits when the weather gets too rough.

What Are the Surf Conditions Like?

When choosing a good fishing spot always spend time working out the swell band
checking conditions, this starts before you even leave home. Some rock ledges look perfect for a few minutes - that is, until the swell rises and hits it with a powerful wave. Make sure you wait and observe a full swell cycle (up least 30 minutes) so that you know exactly how the water is behaving before you take up position.

Long period swell is particularly important to understand frequency and power of waves
and the level of danger they will present as they hit the coast.

Remember that the swell will be at its most unpredictable shortly after stormy weather and at changing tides.

What Equipment Will You Need?

Rock fishing requires not only tackle, but also good clothing and footwear that will keep you safe and warm. Above all else, life jackets save lives and should be the most
important part of your kit.

What should you wear?

It can be tempting to arm yourself against the elements with big, heavy, waterproof clothing to keep you dry and warm. However, if anything should go wrong and you end up in the water, these clothes will weigh you down and make it very difficult to swim to safety.

Instead, you should pick lightweight clothing that will be easy to swim in. Shorts and light t-shirts are great for this. Some anglers also like wetsuits as these help you to float and also keep you warm and protected from the spray whilst fishing.

How about shoes?

As with clothing, you want to avoid any heavy footwear. Gum boots and heavy hiking boots will fill with water if you end up in the ocean and drag you down.

Matching your shoes to the surface you will be fishing on is the best way to get good grip and proper foot protection. For example:

  • Sandstone ledges - trainers with metal cleats
  • Volcanic rock- rubber-based plimsolls
  • Sandals and sandshoes with non-slip soles suit are also a good choice.
  • Whatever you wear on your feet or body, always ask yourself ‘can I swim in this?’

The life jacket

Life jackets are essential for rock fishers providing you with the highest level of safety if you fall into the water. Life jackets can be worn comfortably over your clothing.

The law now states that anyone who is rock fishing in the Randwick local government area (including children), and anyone who is helping out, must wear a life jacket. Other
councils will be introducing life jacket legislation within the next year. Fines do apply for non-compliance.

What tackle should you have?

The best tackle for you will depend on your own fishing experience and the type of species you hope to catch.

To make sure you are prepared for some variety many anglers bring two rods, primed for lighter and heavier fish.

Along with your rods you will also need:

  • Floats (two or more)
  • Spare hooks (two-three sets)
  • Weights of various sizes
  • A sharp knife
  • Spare line
  • Something to keep your catch in
  • Bait
  • A small plier
  • A cloth for wiping hand and holding spikey fish

Safety Tips

Never fish by yourself and always inform others of your plans

  • Fish with other people and stay within sight of each other.
  • Always let friends or family know where you are going and when you’II be back.
  • If someone is washed in, one person can stay and help while the other alerts emergency services (dial 000). If possible, throw them something that will help them float (eg. life jacket eskie, lid or bucket), but don’t jump in after them.
  • Mobile phone users can also dial 112 to access emergency services.

Pack safety gear

  • Wear a life jacket or buoyancy vest.
  • Bring something buoyant that can be easily thrown and held onto, to help you stay afloat.
  • Pack ropes, a float and torches.

Fish only in places you know are safe 

  • Make sure you are aware of local weather, swell and tidal conditions before going fishing.
  • Never fish in exposed areas during rough or large seas.
  • Be aware that conditions may change dramatically in a short period of time.
  • Listen to weather forecasts or visit visit beachsafe.

Plan an escape route in case you are washed in

  • Stay calm if you are washed in
  • Swim away from the rocks and look for a safe place to come ashore or stay afloat and wait for help to arrive.

Stay alert 

  • Don’t ever turn your back on the sea 
  • If the waves, weather or swell threaten your fishing spot then leave immediately.