There’s a life jacket to suit every rock fisher

Wearing a lifejacket doesn’t impede your ability to catch fish!

UP until recent times, lifejackets have primarily been designed to assist boaters when their vessel capsizes or is swamped. A lifejacket designed for this purpose can be quite bulky and uncomfortable to wear. This sort of product isn’t what you’d want to use when engaged in an active sport like rock fishing. 

NSW DPI Fisheries has been talking with fishers about what sort of lifejackets are best suited to rock fishing. What we’ve found is that different anglers want different things. 

For example, some experienced rock hoppers may want to wear a product that provides them with the freedom and flexibility to swim away from the rocks and wash if they get swept in.

Once safely in clear water, the lifejacket can be activated to provide the fisher with additional buoyancy to help him/her stay afloat until help arrives.

An inexpensive yoke or bum-bag style manual inflatable lifejacket – various brands and types of which are available at just about any tackle or boating outlet – is generally the preferred option here. These products require regular maintenance.

Less experienced rock fishers, on the other hand, may feel more comfortable wearing a lifejacket with inherent buoyancy. A mid-priced vest style jacket with closed cell foam buoyancy is the product of choice here, as it provides the fisher with immediate flotation. These products require minimal maintenance but can limit your ability to easily swim away from turbulent water.

A Level 50S lifejacket is the mimimum buoyancy level required under the Rock Fishing Safety Act 2016 in NSW. If you prefer a bit more buoyancy, go for a L100 or L150.

Other fishers are interested in top shelf “hybrid” jackets which feature closed cell foam buoyancy plus a manual inflation system. These jackets can provide the wearer with the ability to swim if needed. They can then inflate the jacket to provide additional buoyancy when they’re out in clear water waiting for rescue. Hybrid jackets can be expensive and require regular maintenance of the inflation system.

Going forward, it is likely manufacturers will respond to the market by designing and producing rock fishing specific lifejackets. Stay tuned for more info on specialist rock fishing lifejackets being manufactured for the local market. DPI understands these products will be affordable and designed to provide all-important buoyancy while also allowing wearers to swim and move freely. 

The take-home message is that there are numerous lifejackets and other floatation aids suitable for rock fishing already available on the market with yet more likely to be released. DPI is working with other government agencies to review lifejacket standards with the aim of increasing the number of products available on the local market. Purpose-designed products will add even more choice to the market, meaning that there will be a lifejacket to suit every rock fisher, no matter his/her requirements and budget. 

If you are a keen rock fisher who wants to fish safe, do your research, shop around and you’ll find the lifejacket that’s best for you.

Remember, if you are rock fishing in the Randwick Local Government Area, you are required to wear a lifejacket or risk a fine.

For adult fishers, the lifejacket needs to comply with at least Level 50S of the Australian Standard 4758 or one of the other RMS approved standards such as International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), European (EN) and New Zealand (NZ) standards. Children 12 and under are required to wear a Level 100 or greater lifejacket.

The buoyancy rating of a lifejacket is also something you need to consider. Level 50S is the minimum recommended for rock fishing but if you aren’t confident about your swimming ability you may want to choose a Level 100 or 150 lifejacket. Again, this is a decision you need to make based on your needs and requirements.

Check out this webpage for more info on rock fishing lifejackets.

Of course, wearing a lifejacket or flotation device is only one aspect of being a safe and responsible rock fisher. DPI encourages all rock fishers to always follow these basic safety protocols: 

  •          Always wear a life jacket
  •          Stay alert to the weather and tidal conditions
  •          Plan an escape route in case you are washed in
  •          Never turn your back on the ocean
  •          Wear appropriate non-slip footwear and light clothing
  •          Do not jump in if someone is washed into the water – call 000 or go and get help
  •          Never fish alone
  •          Spend at least 15 minutes checking wave action and conditions at your spot before you start fishing

Make sure you check out laws about wearing lifejackets when rock fishing in NSW. Click HERE for more info. 

Remember, always fish safe off the rocks. If in doubt, don’t go out!

Make sure you select a rock fishing lifejacket that complies with Australian Standard 4758 or an equivalent international standard. If it has no standard, don’t buy it!


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