You are here

Safe Sea Fishing from the Shore

December 10 2008

Essential advice for anglers

The diverse South West shore line has a wealth of opportunities to be enjoyed by the angler. Sadly the coastline has also been the location for several angling related tragedies over recent years. The sea can give great pleasure but can be cruel and unforgiving if not treated with due respect.


The vast majority of accidents that occur would have been avoided if those involved had been fully aware of the dangers they faced and taken avoiding action. An awareness of tidal state, weather conditions and local topography are essential if planning a trip to the coast.

If visiting an area for the first time try to obtain information from tourist information centres, local fishing tackle shops or local angling clubs. Purchase a tide-table that covers the region you intend to fish. Check the weather forecast and consider how this is likely to affect the venue you plan to visit. Open coast venues can be extremely dangerous when strong winds cause rough seas. Remember that low pressure systems far out in the Atlantic can also cause large ground swells to roll inshore. The North Cornish coast is particularly prone to these swells that have swept many an angler from a position high above the water.

Many rock marks used by anglers involve a steep descent down cliffs on tracks more suited to mountain goats. Remember that what is easily negotiated during dry weather becomes treacherous after rain when each rock feels like it has been coated with grease.

Always study a tide table and ensure that you can escape from the mark you intend to fish. Many visitors to the seashore are cut off by the rising tide each year. It is also important to be aware of the size of the tide as spring tides will come far higher up the shoreline than neap tides.

Be aware of the dangers posed by soft mud found in many estuaries that can trap the unwary or hamper retreat from a flooding tide. Remember that the Bristol Channel has one of the highest tidal rise and falls anywhere in the world which results in some awesome tidal flows.

Be Prepared

Having planned where to go taking into consideration tide, weather and geographical nature you will need to ensure you are dressed appropriately. When fishing from rocks stout footwear with a good grip is essential. When fishing adjacent to deep water a flotation suit is a wise investment which will improve your chances of survival if you do fall into the water and will also ensure you remain warm in even the coldest conditions.

  • Self inflating buoyancy aids are also a wise precaution especially when wading.
  • During hot weather drink plenty to avoid dehydration and during cold weather take a hot drink in a flask. If it is sunny apply sun cream to exposed skin and wear a hat.
  • A mobile phone is a useful tool which may enable you to summon help in an emergency. Try to avoid fishing alone. If you do, ensure that someone knows where you have gone and your expected time of return.
  • A small first aid kit packed into the rucksack can prove beneficial.
  • Ensure that you have planned how to land the fish you hook. A long handled gaff or landing net will enable fish to be successfully landed without going too near the water line. In some instances a drop net will be required.
  • A rope with a suitable floating ring that can be thrown to someone in the water is well worth carrying.

Be Aware

Be constantly aware of the weather conditions and the state of the tide. Always keep a close eye on the sea, do not turn your back as that freak wave could surge in at any time.

The most vulnerable time for many anglers is when attempting to land a big fish. At this time it is easy to get too close to the waters edge with adrenalin surging through the veins risks are taken. Remember no fish however big is worth loss of life.

Whilst fishing be aware of the presence of others particularly when casting and ensure that you have a shock leader to avoid crack offs that can result in heavy leads travelling at speed in any direction.

Safety is a broad topic and I could broaden this article to cover other risks such as hooks, sharp knifes and dangerous fish but for now I will summarise:-

  • Be aware of the hazards and risks.
  • Plan your trip taking into account weather, tide and topography.
  • Be prepared with the right clothing and equipment.
  • Take precautions in case things go wrong.
  • Remember! At best an Accident will spoil a days fishing at worst your life!
  • Do not become one of next year's grim statistics.