Angel ring used in Sugarloaf Rock rescue

Angel rings are an important component of Recfishwest’s Statewide Safe Fishing Program and they save lives. This was again demonstrated in early June when an angel ring was used by First-Class Constable Rob Gaynor, in the rescue of a South West fisherman’s life, after he was swept off rocks at Sugar Loaf Rock, Cape Naturaliste.

First-Class Constable Gaynor makes his way to the angler in strife at Sugarloaf Rock using the Recfishwest angel ring

Angel rings, also known as life buoys, are designed to keep someone afloat until help arrives or a rescue can be organised. Recfishwest have installed angel rings in consultation with local communities and our safety partners at high risk rock fishing locations along the coast and these rings have saved a number of lives. A father and his two sons used an angel ring at Hellfire Bay in 2016 after they got into trouble, using it to stay afloat and return safely to shore. In another incident in 2017, also at Hellfire Bay, another father used the device to save his two children who had been caught in a rip while swimming.

The latest incident involving an angel ring took place after police received an emergency call when a 28-year-old man fell into the water at Sugar Loaf Rock in early June. The angler was wearing a life jacket, but was struggling to remain afloat and reach the rocks.

Dunsborough-based Constable Gaynor grabbed the Recfishwest angel ring located at the popular Cape Naturaliste fishing spot and scaled the rocks towards the man with the ring.
“The angel ring was on my mind as I was driving as I knew there was one out there,” Constable Gaynor told Recfishwest. “When I got there, it was the first thing I went to and I quickly appreciated how well situated it is at Sugarloaf.

Thankfully the angler was wearing a lifejacket which helped save his life.

“He reached out and I grabbed him. We slowly made our way back towards the carpark, he was very shaken and was quite exhausted. The rescue was a great result – the first few moments of a rescue like this can be critical.”

Through the angel ring program, 76 rings have been installed along WA’s coastline at high-risk rock fishing areas, including two at Salmon Holes near Albany.

Angel rings are an important device for recreational anglers’ safety given WA’s coastline can sometimes be unforgiving, especially during the winter months.

Angel rings also provide an important visual reminder about the inherent dangers that exist along our coast and the need for people to make good decisions about when, where and how they choose to fish.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, fishing off rock platforms can come with high risks, as this scene from Salmon Holes near Albany all too graphically demonstrates.

Drone-operator Anton Wilkinson, who was at Sugar Loaf Rock when the incident unfolded, used his drone to guide Constable Gaynor along the safest route to the fisherman.

The rescued fisherman had cuts on his legs from being washed into the rocks several times by the swell. Once he made it to the carpark, he was treated by paramedics. Constable Gaynor said the angler’s decision to wear a life jacket while fishing from the rocks in torrid conditions helped save his life. “It does highlight the importance of wearing a vest,” he said.

He added, “I am a keen fisherman myself and appreciate the info you guys give out to the community.”

With the help and support of local communities, local land managers, local shires and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Recfishwest have plans to install more angel rings at high risk rock fishing locations because we know they save lives.

Click here to see where angel rings are currently installed along the coast.

Angel rings are based at 76 high risk rock fishing locations across WA.