Sea Fishing Safety

Sea fishing from the shore can be carried out from a huge different variety of marks and venues. Some types of fishing (such as mackerel or float fishing from a busy breakwater or harbour) are relatively safe, others (such as rock fishing from an exposed or remote rock mark) are very dangerous indeed and require a wide range of safety precautions to be taken in order for anglers to have a fishing session which is both productive and safe.

Marine Drive, Scarborough

Bad weather and wild seas can see waves crash over breakwaters, harbours and other areas popular with anglers, as seen here at Marine Drive, Scarborough.

  • When fishing a rock mark or any exposed position it is always best to fish there for the first time with someone who knows the area and has local knowledge. Never fish a new area for the first time at night when it is much easier to get into trouble and harder to get help or raise the alarm.
  • There are many fishing marks where it is possible to get cut off by the tide – fishing from a rock mark can see water rush in behind anglers, and the same can happen on big open beaches as well. Always research a mark before hand (visit it if possible) and always keep an eye on the tide. Many anglers have become engrossed in fishing to the extent that they have lost track of the tide and found themselves cut off and in trouble.
  • Be aware of the difference that spring and neap tides have on a mark. A rock mark that is exposed and can be fished from on a neap tide can be completely submerged on a bigger spring tide.
  • Beaches in some areas can be just as dangerous as rock marks. In places where there is a strong tidal flow the distance between the high tide and low tide points can be very far indeed. In some beaches around the Severn there can be a distance of a mile between the high and low tide marks, and the tide can come in with frightening speed, potentially faster than an angler can retreat with all their fishing gear.
  • Ensure that the right equipment and suitable back ups are available for a fishing session. For example always have a back up torch or head lamp in the fishing box in case the main one fails. Cheap head lamps can be bought for as little as £5-6. A spare, fully charged, cheap pay-as-you-go mobile is also useful to keep in the tackle box. A small first aid kit is also a good idea, and on the most dangerous rock marks a rope and lifejackets can also be important.
  • On a nice day it is perfectly fine to go fishing wearing jeans and a T-shirt. When fishing in winter for cod it is essential to wear the correct clothing to keep warm enough to fish comfortably. Hypothermia is a real threat when fishing remote marks in winter. Most anglers fishing for winter cod in bad weather invest in a floatation suit. More information on fishing apparel and flotation suits can be found in the Clothing Section of this website.
  • Rocks can be extremely slippery, especially if they are covered in weed or if they were previously covered in water when the tide was in. The correct footwear such as specialist rockhopper or studded boots can help, but extreme care must also be taken at all times.
  • Anglers should thing about they are going to get to a fishing mark. While a particular spot can be perfectly fishable it can be dangerous to walk along rock ledges or weed covered rocks to reach it.
  • Many anglers fail to think about how they are going to land a fish. It is highly dangerous to lean over rock ledges or get on the walls of stone piers to use a drop net. No fish is worth falling into the sea and putting a life at risk. These issues are covered in more detail on the page on Striking, Reeling in and Landing Fish.
  • Piers and rock marks can be swamped by freak waves and swells. Anglers need to always keep an eye on the weather and pack up and move to a safer venue if the weather takes a turn for the worse. Seemingly safe piers and breakwaters can be swamped with water when certain waves hit.
  • Many advice guides state that anglers should always let someone back home know what time they will be back and raise the alarm if they do not return with ten or twenty minutes of their return time. This is a good idea and mobile phones allow anglers to easily change their return time if the fishing is good.
Rough seas at Silecroft Beach, Cumbria

Rough and choppy seas often produce the best fishing for winter species, especially cod. Here anglers brave the windy conditions at Silecroft Beach, Cumbria.

Sea angling and safety is mostly common sense. As long as anglers are equipped for the mark and conditions they are likely to encounter, and prepared to pack up and move somewhere safer when the conditions take a turn for the worse, then trouble is rarely encountered.

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