Rock fishing remains a popular pastime. Life jackets are not so popular.
Rock fishing remains a popular pastime. Life jackets are not so popular. Trevor Veale

Anglers oppose life jacket trial

YAMBA anglers have spoken out against a push for people to wear life jackets while fishing off rocks, saying their implementation has the potential to do more harm than good.

Following the tragic rock fishing death of Ashby man Robert Colyn last Wednesday, and the drowning of another NSW man on Sunday, surf lifesavers have appealed to the rock fishing community to wear life vests when undertaking the popular pastime.

Andy Kent, acting operations manager at Surf Life Saving NSW, said it was disappointing that the drowning toll for rock fishers over the last 18 months had climbed to 12.

That number includes Red Rock angler Michael Fernance, who went missing while fishing off a rock ledge in June.

"The common factor in all these drowning deaths is that the victim wasn't wearing a life jacket at the time they ended up in the water," Mr Kent said.

"It is frustrating that the importance ... still doesn't seem to be getting through. We will continue to push the message that they are the most important part of rock fishers' equipment."

>> OUR SAY: Why wait for life jacket trial to end?

In an effort to combat rock fishing deaths, the NSW Government is preparing to kick off a 12-month trial of compulsory life jackets for rock fishers in Randwick from December.

There have been 48 coastal drownings recorded in NSW waters during the 2015/16 season, marking the highest NSW coastal drowning toll in five years.

Rock fishing has accounting for eight of those deaths, with two in the past week.

But the Government push seems to be at odds with the attitudes of rock fisherman themselves, who say the people telling them to wear life jackets haven't taken into account serious concerns anglers have.

Yamba Bait and Tackle owner Mick Leavey said he believed there were more disadvantages to wearing them than people realised, including the fact that their often cumbersome nature restricted anglers' mobility when navigating rocky surfaces.

"The only people pushing this are people that don't fish," he said.

"If you fall off out the front of Lovers Point, for example, and you're wearing a vest that's really buoyant, it's just going to push you back into the rocks and do more damage.

"If you're wearing one of the manual jackets and hit your head and are knocked unconscious, it's not going to help you either."

Mr Leavey said the most important precautions were to know your limits, get rid of lures stuck on the rocks below, and invest in a set of rock spikes.

"I've been fishing there longer than most of the guys out there chasing jew, and I always wear rock spikes," he said.

"They're worth $100 but you can hop on the slimiest slippery rock and you're not going to slip over."



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