Rock fishing

Staying safe when rock fishing

Rock fishing is a dangerous pastime. The Randwick City coastline is one of the MOST dangerous rock fishing areas in Australia. In recent years there have been 21 recorded rock fishing fatalities in the Randwick City area. None of the victims were wearing lifejacket.

No matter what your skill level or experience we implore you to always wear a life jacket whilst rock fishing. A lifejacket helps you float giving you more time to be rescued or swim to safety should be washed in.

If you cannot swim - please do not rock fish.

Rock fishing resources

Rock fishing surveys

Randwick City Council conducted an extensive 'on-the-rocks' survey of rock fishers in 2013 to better understand attitudes and behaviours to help reduce rock fishing fatalities. A follow up survey was undertaken in partnership with NSW Department of Justice Office of Emergency Management in 2017 following the introduction of compulsory lifejacket laws.

Safety tips

The follow basic rock fishing safety tips should be followed at all times:

Wear a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket can significantly increase your chance of survival if you are washed into the water.

Learn to swim. You shouldn't rock fish unless you can swim.

Never fish by yourself. Fish in a group of a least three people and within sight of each other. If someone is washed in, one person can stay and help while the other alerts emergency services (dial 000). Mobile phone users can also dial 112 to access emergency services.

Inform others of your plans. Always let friends or family know where you are going and when you'II be back.

Wear light clothing. Light clothing such as shorts and a spray jacket will let you swim easily If you are washed in. Jumpers may be heavy and difficult to take off.

Wear appropriate footwear. Cleats, sandals and sandshoes with non slip soles suit different surfaces. Use the appropriate shoes for the conditions.

Carry safety gear. Wear a life jacket or buoyancy vest. Also bring something buoyant that can be easily thrown and held onto, to help you stay afloat. Carry ropes, a float and torches.

Fish only in places you know are safe and never fish in exposed areas during rough or large seas. Make sure you are aware of local weather, swell and tidal conditions before going fishing. Listen to weather forecasts or call the weather information line on 1900 937 107. Be aware that conditions may change dramatically in a short period of time.

Observe first, fish later. Spend some time (at least 30 minutes) watching your intended spot before fishing to get an idea of the conditions over a full swell/wave cycle. Wave conditions can get worse as the tide changes - you should know whether the tides are high or low and coming in or going out.

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.

Ask for advice from locals who know the area. They will always tell you when an area is dangerous.

Do not jump in if someone is washed into the water. Use your rope or something that floats to rescue the person. If there's an Angel Ring nearby know how to use it. Dial 000 on your mobile phone to get help.

Randwick Council initiatives to improve safety for rock fishers

Over the past decade, Randwick Council has implemented a number of proactive initiatives in an attempt to improve safety and raise awareness about the dangers of rock fishing.

This has included:

  • Being the first council in Australia to implement compulsory lifejacket laws for rock fishers in 2016
  • Installing high impact ‘shock’ signs at rock fishing blackspots indicating the number of fatalities with translations in multiple languages
  • Conducting multilingual surveys of rock fishers about behavior and safety to help develop appropriate strategies
  • Installing live beach cams to broadcast beach conditions helping rock fishers assess conditions before leaving home
  • Working with industry associations to communicate key safety information
  • Hosting three free rock fishing safety workshops in 2017 targeting at risk rock fishers where 222 free lifejackets were handed out to people who successfully attended the workshops.
  • Working with Surf Life Saving to host workshops in 2023.

Lifejacket law

It's now law to wear a lifejacket when rock fishing in the Randwick City Local Government Area. This includes locations such as La Perouse, Little Bay, Malabar, Maroubra, Coogee and Clovelly.

The Rock Fishing Safety Act 2016 (NSW) came into effect on 1 December 2016.

Due to the number of fatalities, the Randwick City local government area (LGA) has been chosen as the first location to implement this new law. An on the spot fine of $100 applies to those fishing without an approved lifejacket from 1 June 2018.

This means you must wear an appropriate lifejacket whenever you rock fish anywhere in the Randwick LGA. Anyone who is helping you rock fish in the Randwick LGA, as well as children in your care, MUST also wear an appropriate lifejacket.

More information:

Rock fishing safety tips factsheet

Rock Fishing Safety Act 2016 factsheet

For more information about the new legislation visit the NSW Government Water Safety website.

Staying safe whilst rock fishing in Randwick City

Greg Finney's Story

Last Updated: 11 January 2023
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