Sea Fishing Safety

Sea fishing from the shore can be carried out from a huge different variety of marks and venues. While some, such as sandy beaches and sheltered harbours, are relatively safe, exposed rock marks and clifftops are very dangerous and require a 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, piers 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. Always research a mark before fishing it (and visit it if possible) and pay attention to the tidal conditions. 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 serious 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. On vast open beaches the distance between the high tide and low tide points can be very far indeed, being over a mile on some beaches. On beaches such as these, the tide can come in with frightening speed, potentially faster than an angler can move with all of their fishing gear. Anyone fishing or bait collecting on these types of beaches should be extremely careful, research which areas are safe prior to visiting and obey all signs giving information about areas of the beach which may be dangerous.
  • Ensure that the right equipment and suitable backups are available for a fishing session. For example, always have a backup 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. A spare, fully charged, 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 when fishing deep water rock marks it is becoming increasingly common for anglers to wear life jackets when they are fishing.
  • In warm summer weather, it is perfectly fine to go fishing wearing jeans and a T-shirt but when fishing in winter for species such as cod it is essential to wear the correct clothing to keep warm enough to fish comfortably. Hypothermia and frostbite are real threats when fishing in winter. Most anglers fishing for winter cod in bad weather invest in a flotation 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 underwater when the tide was in. The correct footwear such as specialist studded boots can help, but extreme care must also be taken at all times.
  • Anglers should think 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 climb on the walls of stone piers to use a drop net, and when fishing from clifftops landing fish can be particularly dangerous. No angler should risk falling into the sea in order to land a fish. These issues are covered in more detail on the page on Striking, Reeling in and Landing Fish.
  • A mark can be perfectly safe to fish in good weather but dangerous in bad weather. Conditions can also change over the course of a fishing session, meaning anglers need to constantly monitor weather and tide conditions.
  • 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 within half an hour or so of their stated 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.

Staying safe when sea fishing is mostly common sense, but even experienced anglers can put themselves at risk. Anglers should never fish a mark if they suspect the conditions have made it dangerous and should always pack up and move to somewhere new if the weather has changed and made the area they are fishing unsafe.