We love angling! Around 1M people around the UK coast are already hooked. It’s a chance to get outdoors, away from the stresses of everyday life, and the different types of fishing mean that there really is something for everyone.

Henry Gilbey is a respected angler and writer with an avid blog and social media following. He was driven to change his attitude to safety after two brothers died while angling at one of his local fishing spots. Henry reached out to the RNLI to give himself and other anglers the best possible chance of coming home to our families

Henry and three other anglers attended a day at our sea survival pool where they tested various scenarios in rough water, both with and without different styles of lifejacket, to put various angling myths to the test.

Understand the risks and fish safely

Much like not knowing when your next catch will be, water is incredibly unpredictable. There are a few things that you can do to make sure you’re fit to fish, on land or at sea.

The dangers and ways to stay safe

RNLI lifeboat crews around the UK and Ireland went to the rescue of 112 shore anglers in 2015.

Between 2011 and 2015, 50 anglers lost their lives while fishing around the UK coast. The majority of these fatalities were shore anglers, fishing from exposed areas of shoreline.

Expert evidence suggests that many of those lives might have been saved if the anglers had been wearing a lifejacket.

Why is a lifejacket important? An analysis of shore angling fatalities from 2010 to 2013 revealed that 70% involved being swept into the waves. Wearing a lifejacket can be the difference between catching the one and becoming one of these statistics. Don’t be an amateur, wear a lifejacket.

‘If you don’t wear a lifejacket you’re as good as dead’

Colm Plunkett is one of those who chose to wear his lifejacket while angling – a decision that ultimately saved his life. While fishing at Dursey in Co Cork in August 2015, he was swept from the rocks and into the sea.

Four simple tips to staying safe when fishing from the shore

  • Check the weather and tides before heading to the coast.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
  • Wear a lifejacket and keep it fully maintained. See our guidance on lifejackets and buoyancy aids (PDF 3.3MB).
  • Carry a means of calling for help, such as a portable VHF radio, and know how to use it.

The dangers and ways to stay safe

Between 2011 and 2015, there were 50 angling fatalities in the UK. While the majority of those deaths are attributed to shore angling, boat angling represents a large number of RNLI rescues every year.

Boat leaks and swamping cause many serious incidents. In 2015, RNLI lifeboat crews around the UK and Ireland rescued 549 anglers from boats.

The Think or Sink 3-minute checklist

Just 3 minutes of your time making some simple checks before you set out on your sea fishing trip could save your life.

  • Check the weather and tides before you leave.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
  • Wear a lifejacket and keep it fully maintained. See our guidance on lifejackets and buoyancy aids (PDF).
  • Check through hull fittings for leaks and around the bilge for excess water.
  • Carry a means of plugging a hole.
  • Check the engine and carry spare fuel.
  • Carry a means of calling for help, such as a portable VHF radio, and know how to use it.
    Wear a killcord.

Keeping you safe

Here are ways we’re working to help you get the most out of angling and keep you as safe as possible while enjoying your sport.

  • Raising awareness
    We have a scheme with bait and tackle shops to make anglers more aware of the risks they face in their sport and what precautions they can take to stay safe.
The fine line between rescue and tragedy only goes to highlight the importance of raising awareness of the risks involved in the sport. Our new scheme helps shops take a lead role in protecting anglers by providing relevant local safety advice and information to their angling communities.
Chris Adams
RNLI Operations Policy Implementation Manager
  • Think or Sink safety videos
    Our 3-minute Think or Sink safety videos demonstrate how quick and easy it is to make some simple safety checks ahead of your boat fishing trips to ensure your time on the water is enjoyable and as safe as possible.


When heading out onto the water, you need to be able to call for help. Having the appropriate means to tell the coastguard exactly where you are is the quickest way to save your life. Here are some options:

Waterproof handheld Digital Selective calling (DSC) VHF radio

A waterproof DSC VHF allows you to send a distress message with your location direct to the coastguard with a single button push. You then follow this with a voice call on channel 16, which is broadcast to all VHF radios in the area.

Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

A PLB can send a distress message to the coastguard from anywhere in the world, providing there is a clear view of the sky. The distress message and your location will be sent to the coastguard, who will launch a rescue service to your GPS position. You can also use a PLB anywhere on land, so they can be used as safety kit for other outdoor pursuits.


Some GSM or satellite trackers have an SOS function which allows you to call for help from a Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC). They will then pass on your distress message to the Maritime RCC who will task the appropriate rescue service for you.

All trackers are different and costs, specifications and network availability vary.

Mobile phone

Always take a fully charged mobile phone with you and keep it stored in a waterproof pouch. If you get into difficulty, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. You may also want to use the RYA Safe Trx (UK) or ISA SafeTrx (Ireland) apps to track and log your passage.  These apps will also alert your emergency contacts if you fail to return before your ETA.

Remember: Not all coastal areas have mobile phone signal, so you may need an alternative means of calling for help.

Angling safety: Useful links and resources