Related Information

  • For information on boating safety, visit our Boat Safety section.

Fishing isn't a dangerous sport, but you should prepare to be safe and comfortable in the outdoors. It is possible to get caught unexpectedly in bad weather, encounter insects, spend too much time in the sun, or get caught on a fish hook.

Wearing the proper clothing helps to protect you from injury. It also keeps you warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. Rain wear and other gear keep you from getting wet and chilled.

Safety Around Water

Anglers should learn how to swim and use caution around water at all times. You should always use the "buddy system" and have a friend or an adult with you in case something goes wrong.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Buckle-up, Even While You Fish

Courtesy of the National Safe Boating Council  

Find out about BoatUS Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), also called life jackets and life vests, are not just for wearing in boats. Anytime you are on or around deep or fast moving water, you should wear a PFD. U.S. Coast Guard and/or state laws require you to have an approved PFD when you are in a boat, and that a boat must carry one PFD for each passenger on board. Certain types of boats must also have a cushion or ring that can be thrown to a person in the water.


There are several rules you should follow for safe wading.

   1. Always wade with another person.
   2. Always wear your PFD.
   3. Know how deep the water is.
   4. Know how strong the current is.
   5. Know what the bottom is like by checking with a stick or staff. Shuffle your feet along the bottom to avoid holes.

While wading you can protect your ankles by wearing high-top shoes or wading boots. Long, lightweight pants can protect you from jellyfish and sea nettles in saltwater and from snags and rocks in freshwater.


Reach-throw-row-go is a method of rescuing a person who falls overboard or an angler or swimmer in trouble.

The first safety step is to REACH out with an oar, tree limb or other long object if the person is close to you. If you can't reach the person, THROW them a life-saving device. This can be a boat cushion or ring. Tie it to the end of a line so that it helps you pull the person to safety. If a cushion or ring isn't available, throw in anything that floats: plastic coolers, ski belts or even beach balls can be used in an emergency.

If there is nothing to throw, ROW a boat to the person in trouble. Ideally, take someone else with you to help pull the person out of the water. The person should be pulled in over the stern, or back, of the boat. If the boat has a motor, shut it off before you attempt any water rescue. Don't let the person try to climb in over the side of a small boat, it can tip the boat over. Instead, pull the victim over the stern, or back, of the boat. If the boat is small, you can also have the victim hang onto the gunwales, and tow him to shore.

Swim out to save the person in trouble ONLY as a last resort and ONLY if you are an experienced lifeguard or have had life-saving training. Going into the water after someone is in trouble is dangerous. People who are drowning often panic and injure or even drown someone trying to rescue them. Going quickly for help is often the best choice.


If you fish, you should know how to swim for your own safety. Many young anglers like to go for a swim during a fishing trip just for fun or to cool off. Don't swim if there is any doubt about your ability. Never dive into the water of an unknown area and don't swim in cold water or after a heavy meal. Finally swim only when an experienced swimming partner is with you.

Safety with Fishing Equipment

Handle your fishing equipment responsibly. Look behind you before you cast to make sure your hook will not get caught on a power line, tree or person. To avoid accidents, don’t leave your tackle lying on the ground. Someone can trip on it, step on a hook or break your equipment.

Take caution and use long-nose pliers to help remove hooks from a fish. If a hook is deep inside the fish, either cut off the line and leave the hook in the fish, or use a hook disgorger. Hooks left in fish will work themselves free or rust out.

When transporting your equipment, remove the hook or lure from the line and store it in your tackle box.