The inquest into rock fishing deaths are on in Sydney this week.
The inquest into rock fishing deaths are on in Sydney this week. Contributed

The day I almost became a rock-fishing death statistic

THE Daily Examiner's fishing columnist Dick Richards could be one of the statistics used to prove the dangers of rock fishing.

When he lived at Avoca, on the NSW Central Coast, Mr Richards was fishing at his favourite rock fishing haunt at Copacabana on a calm, quiet day when a small wave knocked him off his feet.

"It was the calmest day, you would not have thought you were in any danger," he said.

"I was bending down behind a rock to get some cunje, when some wash just swirled around me and sucked me into a plug hole I didn't even know was there.

"Luckily for me, the next wave washed me back out again.

"You know the best feeling I can remember was this stray dog that used to come along with me was licking me on the face. It was the best feeling, I can tell you."

A Coronial Inquest yesterday began looking into the deaths of eight NSW rock fishermen in the past two years.

One of the victims was 62-year-old Greg Reardon who was drowned at Turners Beach, Yamba in January 2014 when he was swept from the breakwall.

In 2014 the sport was the leading cause of coastal drownings in NSW and has claimed 68 lives in Australia in the past five years.

Mr Richards acknowledged the danger of rock fishing, but for keen anglers the risk was worth it.

"The main attraction is you're almost sure to catch something - drummer, blackfish, bream, tailor, salmon," he said.

"The fish are in the white water swirling around the rocks, feeding off whatever gets swept from the rocks into the water."

Even though the victims under investigation are all male, Mr Richards does not think the problem is a macho attitude.

"I don't think rock fishermen go out there to challenge the elements, they go out for the challenge of catching fish," he said.

Mr Richard said danger was always there while fishing off the rocks, but there were plenty of things anglers could to cut the risks.

He said checking the tides, the prevailing conditions, what direction the sea is running and the depth of the water in front of the rocks you are fishing should be mandatory.

"You should also have someone fishing with you at all times," he said.

Mr Richards said a life jacket was also a good idea, although the boating jackets were unwieldy.

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