The first fatalities in the water of the holiday season have occurred, and are sad reminders of the need to always treat waterways with respect.

The type of accidents which claim lives do not vary much. They will involve people getting into trouble on beaches or harbours when swimming or fishing, such as when setting nets or pots. Conditions can change fast, trapping inexperienced people in apparently shallow water that has a hole or gut that's been gouged out by waves - or perhaps the incoming tide, which changes quickly on shallow harbours such as the Manukau.

Currents on beaches can also change in different conditions and different tides.

Boating accidents are more common, and invariably involve a lack of lifejackets - a simple mistake which contravenes the law. It is mandatory to have a correctly fitting lifejacket for every person on a pleasure boat (commercial vessels are subject to more stringent regulations). It is the skipper's responsibility to ensure compliance, and there are serious legal consequences for not doing this.

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It is also the skipper's responsibility to ensure all passengers wear lifejackets in situations where the risk increases; for example in rough conditions or when crossing a bar.

Be aware that the tide will change every six hours and what may appear as benign conditions at a bar or in a channel will be totally different six hours later on the way back in.

The Motuihe Channel, for example, can be very rough when large tides oppose the wind. This effect becomes even more magnified on the bars of large harbours such as the Manukau and Kaipara Harbours.

Lifejackets must be easily accessible at all times, and some local bylaws require lifejackets to be worn at all times in boats under 6m, which is when most fatalities occur.

Children and non-swimmers should wear lifejackets at all times in boats smaller than 6m.

Accidents can happen quickly and without warning, and it is almost impossible to put on a lifejacket when in the water, so common sense should always prevail.

The other situation which can lead to drowning accidents is when rock fishing. The best fishing is usually found where the water is moving - with currents sweeping past or waves stirring up the sea. But these are also dangerous conditions, and lack of experience can lead to tragedy.

This can involve new immigrants who have no experience of such situations and may be collecting shellfish from rocks or setting pots for crabs and are caught by a large wave.

The authorities erect signs in different languages at popular spots like the rocky shelf at Muriwai Beach. But it always comes back to personal experience and responsibility.

There are several golden rules that apply when fishing from the rocks.

Never turn your back on the sea for you never know when a large, rogue wave will appear. Prepare an escape route if you do fall in, and wearing a lifejacket rather than a heavy coat and gumboots is a good start.

Be aware of the rising tide and how conditions will change. The high tide mark can be identified by the growth of weed and algae, so be aware that an incoming tide will reach that mark.

Will your escape route be cut off?

Some people even attach a safety rope to give them added security.

If you are unfamiliar with the area, watch the sea for a time before climbing down to the rocks, to see how the waves affect the shoreline and how far they sweep over the rocks.

Not all waves are the same, and usually every seventh or eighth wave will be a larger one.

Holiday destinations all around the coast will be busy with the annual influx of visitors, making the fishing hard as boats and water toys invade the beaches. The best chance of fresh fish for dinner is to be out before dawn and home by breakfast.

And if swimming at surf beaches - swim between the flags.

Fresh water

Harling in the morning and evening is producing good results on the Rotorua lakes. Jigging and deep trolling are also going well on Lakes Tarawera and Rotoiti, but are harder on Lake Okataina. However, fly fishing at the Log Pool has been good at dusk.

The lake water is colder than usual for this time of the summer season and the hot fly fishing at stream mouths and deep jigging has not yet taken off.

Hot, settled weather for a week or so should see this fishing improve. This applies mainly to Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti, where the lake stratifies into different levels divided by differences in temperature and saturated oxygen levels, which determine where the trout congregate.

On Lake Tarawera deep trolling at 35m is producing the best fishing.

Tip of the week

Use a net to boat fish caught on light tackle, and don't lift the rod tip above 45 degrees. This is called point loading and rod tips can snap when bent too far. But if lifting fish into the boat by holding the trace, a sticking plaster around the joint on the finger used will prevent line cuts.

Bite times
Bite times are 8.10am and 8.35pm today and 9.05am and 9.30pm tomorrow.
These are based on the phase and position of the moon, not tides, and apply to the whole country.

- More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm Saturday, TV3, and at GTTackle.co.nz.