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Going fishin'?  Safety tips to keep you safe on the high seas

27th April, 2016

With some of the richest waters in the world, Tasmania is a fisherman’s paradise. But before you head out onto the water, make sure you’re prepared for any emergency with these safety tips from Westpac Rescue Tasmania.

The rich waters of Tasmania’s stunning coastline boasts more diverse marine plant life than anywhere else on earth. Kelp forests, seagrass beds and sponge gardens are home to an incredible array of creatures, from great white sharks and migrating whales to fairy penguins and sea dragons.

With such diversity, it’s no surprise that marine fishing is so popular in Tasmania. But before you head out onto the water, it is important to be well prepared for anything Mother Nature can throw at you. From lifejackets to communication devices, here’s our handy checklist to help keep beginner boaters safe in an emergency.

Have a licence

You must hold a current boat licence. However, just having a licence doesn’t equal experience, so if you’re new to boating, take care. Be aware of your limitations and stick to calm conditions until you feel capable. Remember, even experienced sailors run into trouble at times.  

Plan your trip

It’s important to take a few moments to plan your fishing trip before you head out onto the water.

Apart from checking that the boat is seaworthy, make sure it’s equipped with navigation maps (or GPS), lifejackets and an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) that’s registered with the marine authorities.


It’s mandatory to carry an EPIRB in Open Waters.

Plan your journey based on your boat’s capabilities, taking into account the daily weather forecast, currents and tides. Keep an eye out for sudden squalls before and during your trip, and be prepared to cancel your trip if the conditions turn poor. Remember: you’re responsible for your passengers’ safety.

Finally, ALWAYS tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

Local knowledge

It is important to have a good understanding of the area where you’re planning to fish. This includes weather, tides, rips and reefs - as well as the best type of bait to use.  Your best bet is to ask a local for advice, but you can also check out guidebooks or the Internet for answers to any questions.

Wear a lifejacket

If your boat is under 6 metres long, wear a life jacket at all times. If you’re taking kids along, make sure their lifejackets are safely on before you head out onto the water.

Know your safety gear

The type of safety gear you need depends on the size of the boat, and whether you plan to fish in coastal or sheltered waters.  Regardless, you must know where the safety gear is stowed, and make sure you – and your passengers - know how to use it. It’s a good idea to draw up a plan of the boat, and mark out where the safety gear is stowed.

Here’s a checklist of the basic gear you’ll need:

  • Anchor, Rope and Chain
  • Bailer or Bilge Pump
  • EPIRBS and Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • First Aid Kit and extra water
  • Flares
  • Heaving Line
  • Life Jackets
  • Lifebuoy
  • Marine Radio
  • Oars/Auxiliary Propulsion
  • Radar Reflector
  • Drinking Water

For a comprehensive guide to boat safety gear, use this handy checklist from Marine and Safety Tasmania.

Don’t overload your boat

Just one extra passenger or a large haul of fish could make your boat unstable, so don’t exceed your boat’s load limit. Plus, to avoid capsizing or tipping someone overboard keep the weight evenly distributed. In other words, make sure your passengers sit still!

Take extra fuel

You’ll need enough fuel for the trip there and back, plus extra supplies in case of emergency. Also pack a few basic spare parts, just in case.

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol and boating are a dangerous combination. Save it for when you’re back at the boat club.

Dehydration will make you feel very sick very quickly so drink lots of water, particularly if you are fishing in the sun.

It’s mandatory in Open Waters to carry drinking water on a vessel.

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