Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rock Fishing

Rock fishing is a pleasurable pastime in the right conditions, with the added bonus of bringing home a few tasty fish for the dinner table. But it can also be quite dangerous, with ocean swells sometimes ramping up unexpectedly to trap the unwary fishermen.
Above: Large waves can quickly break across rock ledges used by rock fishermen. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Numerous tragedies have occurred along the Australian shoreline over the years, usually involving fishermen being washed off the rocks where they can be injured or drowned in the pounding waves. One such event occurred on Sunday 30th May 1937 near Victor Harbour in South Australia. It was reported in The Mail, soon after:

Stories Of Big Waves

Many stories of hairbreadth escapes from big, unexpected waves are being told among Victor Harbor anglers following the tragedy last Sunday, when H. M. Mildred, of Adelaide, was washed by a huge wave from a rocky ledge and drowned at the base of a 200-ft. headland near Waitpinga.

General opinion is that novices should not fish on the rocks and cliff faces of the South Coast without some one who knows the dangers.

Mr. Paul Cudmore tells how on a fine, hot day he and several companions lost all the fish they had caught, and some of their tackle. It was on the other side of Waitpinga beach, where three strangely shaped rocks project from the water.

The men had to wade through water up to their armpits to reach the farthest rock, where they caught three dozen 2-lb. sweep. Suddenly the water, which was comparatively smooth, rose up without warning, and rods, lines, bags, and fish were swept into the water. It was not so much a wave as a sudden movement of the sea.

As the men were clinging to the rock they saw two big sharks snapping up their fish. Within two minutes the water had subsided, and they recovered some of their tackle. But in view of the accident, and the arrival of the sharks, they decided to call it a day.

Big surf breaking across ledges favoured by rock fishermen can easily wash people into the water. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Even today there are regular tragedies involving rock fishermen being swept from the shoreline and so safety remains of paramount importance. Important tips from the experts include:

* Know the tides and weather expected on the day
* Never fish alone
* Wear a personal flotation device, light clothing and shoes with cleats or non slip soles.
* Never turn your back to the sea.
* If you are swept in, swim away from the rocks.
* Be aware of any emergency rescue devices nearby, such as life rings and anchor points.

The golden rule of rock fishing: No fish is worth your life.

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