Within hours of a fatal drowning, fishers returned to the same rocks despite increasingly hazardous surf conditions.
Cody Amos, fishing at Windang Island near Wollongong on Monday, said knowing that another fisherman had been washed away was "terrifying".
"Hearing something like that really does make you think. On the way I was saying, 'Let's not go anywhere near the edge.'"
Less than 24 hours earlier a 21-year-old man died after he was washed off the rocks at the very same spot.
Multiple rescue teams were involved in the operation in treacherous conditions.
Crews from Windang Beach and Warilla-Barrack Point were dispatched to attempt to retrieve the man and they were helped by Lifesaver Helicopter 23 and the Toll Helicopter, as well as police. A diver retrieved the man who was then winched out.
Duty officer Adrian Walsh who responded to the incident on Sunday highlighted the danger of the hazardous conditions.
"We had a large surf running and a strong northeast wind. It was a real crap day out there," said Walsh.
With the swell forecast to continue to increase over the next few days, lifeguards are warning rock fishers and those heading out to the water to stay safe to avoid another accident.
The incident at Windang Island was the second day in a row that a rock fisherman had lost their life after a death at Warriewood on Sydney's northern beaches on Saturday, January 1.
On Monday a man was treated for spinal injuries at Port Kembla Beach after an incident in the surf.
Surf Life Saving NSW and the Department of Primary Industries caution that rock fishing can be a dangerous sport, with the agencies strongly recommend that rock fishers always wear life jackets, noting that these are the most important part of any fisherman's kit.
According to Surf Life Saving Australia, 16 per cent of drownings occur when a person is rock fishing.
"We are urging all who visit our coastline to undertake some simple measures such as swimming at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags, wear a lifejacket when rock fishing, boating or using watercraft and always supervising children on, in and around water," said Surf Life Saving Australia CEO Adam Weir.
In addition to the impact the tragedy has on the victim's family and friends, the retrieval can have a significant impact on first responders.
In addition to the impact the tragedy has on the victim's family and friends, the retrieval can have a significant impact on first responders. Surf life savers responding to the Windang Island incident have been provided with immediate counselling as well as follow up support.
"Every rescue has got an emotional impact," said Walsh. "We support all our staff and we are very conscious of the mental wellbeing of our members."
Authorities recommend that they take precautions every time.
"Think about your own wellbeing, whoever you're with and then also whoever has to come and get you."
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