Does boating and fishing count as exercise?

Keeping up with rapidly changing Government restrictions is just one of the challenges Australians are facing in the wake of COVID-19. Today, we’re looking at whether boating and fishing are permitted under the restrictions, and if so, under what circumstances.


Here’s what you need to know.


Restrictions differ state by state

On 29 March, the National Cabinet agreed to limit non-essential gatherings to two people. Of course, these limits are important as they lower the risk for older people, and those who suffer from chronic illness.


Each state and territory can decide how these restrictions can be enforced, which means what is allowed in one state may not be okay in another. One example is the Northern Territory, where gatherings of 10 people (max) are still allowed.


The Government has announced that people may only leave home to:

  • Go to work or education (if you cannot do so at home).
  • Shop for essential supplies, like groceries, and then return home without delay.
  • Go out for personal exercise in the neighbourhood (solo or with one other person).
  • Attend medical appointments or visit someone on compassionate grounds.


So, does boating and fishing count as exercise? That depends.

* For more detailed information on what is and is not permitted by the Australian Government, please head here.


Does boating and fishing count as exercise?

According to the Federal Government, boating and fishing for recreational purposes is not permitted in Australia right now. Boating and fishing for ‘essential purposes’ is okay though.


An essential purpose includes –  travelling to work, getting provisions from the store, or if you’re fishing to provide a meal for your family.


However, each state is enforcing these restrictions a little differently.


NSW – fishing and boating is allowed but social distancing is required
  • The NSW Government initially said recreational fishing and boating was not a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave home.
  • NSW Police Minister David Elliott stepped in and the Police General Counsel has since declared fishing and boating to be ‘passive exercise’.
  • However, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said people could not go fishing or boating en masse. This means people need to ensure safe distancing, or they will receive tickets.
  • Commissioner Fuller said people can take a break and go fishing, but “…do it sensibly and do it quickly and return home.”
  • Read more on NSW fishing and boating regulations here.


Queensland – only for essential reasons
  • Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) has said authorities will be at boat ramps and on the water to ensure people are complying with Federal Government regulations.
  • Officers have been briefed to ‘educate people’ and ask individuals who are not engaging in essential activities to head home.
  • Sunshine Coast Water Police Acting Sergeant Mark Muddiman told ABC News, “The main reason is we don’t want people breaking down and volunteers having to go out and rescue them.”


Victoria – banned with on the spot fines
  • Recreational boating and fishing in Victoria is banned, and those who don’t comply risk on the spot fines of up to $1,652.
  • A Government spokesperson said, “People cannot participate in recreational activities like they normally would, such as fishing or boating. They need to stay home if not for their own health, but for the health of their loved ones and the wider community.”


Western Australia – recommended to stay home
  • Although the WA Government has not banned recreational fishing or boating outright, Premier Mark McGowan has, “encouraged recreational fishers to stay at home for now”
  • WA Police released a statement saying, “we recommend that any upcoming recreational boating activities are postponed or cancelled.”
  • Recreational Skippers and anglers on social media argued boating and fishing were essential activities, whether it was for catching fish to eat, mental health or exercise.
  • Ben Carlish, who leads communications at RefishWest responded by saying, “”We can completely understand why people would be looking to go fishing for a bit of a break from all of this. It’s good for their mental health and wellbeing. However, while it’s not our job to tell people what to do or what not to do, we are urging everyone to adhere to the Government guidelines.”


South Australia – fishing is okay
  • The South Australian Police have said fishing is permitted; however, anglers must maintain social distancing – whether they’re on land or on the water.


Tasmania – if it’s for mental health or essential purposes, that’s fine
  • Tasmanians are allowed to go fishing or boating, if it’s to take care of mental wellbeing or to exercise.
  • The two-person rule applies, unless you’re boating with people you also live with.


Australian Capital Territory – fishing for food or exercise is okay
  • In the ACT, people can fish for the purposes of catching food to eat or to exercise.
  • Anglers must comply with social gathering regulations set out by the Chief Health Officer.
  • We are not sure what the boating advice is for the ACT, which means you should probably stay home.


Northern Territory – fishing in some circumstances is okay
  • In the NT, non-essential travel to remote communities is no longer allowed.
  • This means anglers will not receive an Aboriginal Land permit if fishing requires them to stop at or pass through a remote community.
  • If you’re fishing at a site that doesn’t require you to stop at or pass through a remote community, that is okay.


Why is boating and fishing restricted?

The Federal Government says restrictions on recreational boating and fishing are designed to protect the community, especially those who work in rescue services. Understandably, many boaters and anglers were upset by the restrictions, however, we think fishing presenter Scott Hillier puts it best.


“If something goes wrong, particularly with offshore boating, some volunteers and rescue groups right now aren’t in a position to go out and help. Generally, a lot of these groups are volunteers, they have elder members too, and other rescue services are down on numbers,” he said.

“So I totally appreciate people not being happy, but we really need to listen to the Government and authorities on this. Adhere to what they are saying.”


Stay safe out there

If it is allowed in your state or territory and you choose to go out on the water, please stay safe. We recommend you check in with your State Government’s regulations to ensure you’re complying with the most recent rules, since restrictions are changing day by day.



We know watching someone else do what you love on a screen is a poor substitute for the real thing, but if you want some quality viewing material, here are our favourite fishing shows to watch on TV and our Top 5 Boating Channels on YouTube.


Take care and stay safe,


Trident Marine.