Rock Fishing

Leroy Tirant
Fishing from rock platforms has been written about plenty of times before in various fishing magazines so I don't intend on reinventing the wheel. This article is intended more so as a reminder to anglers of the basics of fishing the stones.

Rock platforms, outcrops, groins, breakwalls and reefs are all areas most land based saltwater anglers will fish at one time or another. These spots are popular because of the species of fish that populate these areas and because of the deeper water which is more often available to the angler. Fishing from the stones at different times of the year offers us as anglers a variety of species to target. This is affected by currents and tides that vary according to seasons as well as carrying the baitfish that encourages our pelagic fish to hunt in the wash zones. slimey mackerel, yakkas, cuttlefish, sauries, squid and many others frequent rocky areas at different times of the year and these species in turn will attract salmon, couta, pike, gummies and kingfish which are the fish we mainly target whilst rock fishing. By catches of wrasse and leather jackets can often happen and can at times be annoying.

Picking a platform to fish can be as simple as fishing well known spots where you have seen others fishing or if your more adventurous take a drive along a coast road until you spot a platform that looks promising and then figure out how you can access it. Once on a platform you should never approach directly until watching the water for awhile to ensure it is safe. For example if it's a relatively calm day but the rocks are wet for a fair way back it's a good indication that the odd wave is breaking over the top. Next thing I check out is things like where are the sand patches or the weed and kelp beds. What sort of depth is there and what type of fish am I likely to encounter so I know how to rig up. If everything looks good you should have a safe flat ledge with no waves breaking over the top, good deep water, broken reef and kelp beds with a bit of current and white water coming off the stones. Now we can go fishing.

Now even though you think the ledge is safe it's still worth considering using a life jacket or an inflatable vest of some sort for piece of mind as accidents do happen and people do die fishing off rock platforms. Appropriate footwear is also worth considering with some keen rock hoppers even fitting cleats to an old pair of boots or sneakers to give them added traction on the wet rocks. The first thing I like to do before rigging up is to secure my burley bag to a rock via a short rope and hang the burley on the edge of the rocks so the wave action starts dispersing the good stuff while I rig up. Burley is probably an under utilized tactic whilst fishing from the stones as this can start the whole ball rolling by enticing fish swimming around the wash to start feeding and over time after the current and wave action has carried the burley out off your rock ledge it can draw fish in closer to the source which means they can brought into well within casting range. Burley can consist of fish frames, stale bread and fish oil mixed together but anything is better than nothing.

I like to predominantly fish the stones with a float rig with two droppers adjusted according to water depth and the length of the rod being used. I prefer to use a float which is normally a cone shaped foam float with or without reflectors and the size will be according to casting distance and weight of baits it has to hold. But usually a 4 inch float suffices. I run my main line straight through the float with a float stopper above and below about 8 inches apart. Approximately 3 feet below the float I tie in my first dropper about 4-6 inches long and tie on a number 1 hook (shank size depending on type of bait). My second hook is then tied onto the end of the mail line about 4 ft below the first dropper. I often have 2 or 3 small fluorescent green or red beads threaded onto the line before the hook to act as an attractor. I prefer using a float off the stones because it allows the bait to be carried around the wash by wave movement and if need be to be carried out off the ledge with the current. Most of the pelagic fish we target will feed mid-water to surface which is where your baits need to be. Another rig I like is to run the mainline through the float to a small swivel where I tie off with a short tag and tie on a small unweighted soft plastic lure or surf popper then tie in my normal rig below this. If fishing sand patches on the bottom a simple paternoster rig is what I use, but with twisted dropper loops instead of three way swivels. I find the more terminals you have between your mainline and your bait can dampen the bites of fish and the twisted dropper also hangs the bait away from the mainline so that it does not wrap around your line.

Baits for rock fishing are dependant on the fish your hunting, but I try half a pilchard on the bottom hook and a soft bait like a pippie on the top hook. If there are a lot of salmon etc about then just stick to pilchard pieces. I prefer to use pilchard more than blue bait because it holds onto the hook better and I believe fish show a preference for it. If the fish you are catching are large use only a single hook rig. Other baits worth trying are prawns and squid. With the squid I like to bash it so it's softened to an extent. Blue bait is always a favourite with Tassie anglers. The stones can also provide lots of natural baits like limpets, cunjovei, green cabbage, crabs, mussels etc, and all can catch fish on the day.

When it comes to tackle for the stones I prefer a rod with a moderate taper but with heaps of guts down low so you can lift fish up out of the wash and to turn fish that try to run into the kelp beds etc. A rod with a rating of 6-8 kg and 10 ft in length is perfect. If you are extremely high off the water then maybe a 12 ft rod would be better. I try not to use an overly heavy outfit as its not needed and I find I tire too quickly when trying to control the bait in the washing machine of white water. Spinning rods to use off the stones should be 8-9 ft in length with the same line rating as bait rods. For line I never use braid off the rocks as it has no abrasion resistance so monofilament line is definitely the go. Try not to use anything heavier than 20 lb, I prefer 12 -15 lb line and find this ample to land the biggest of fish. The new Platypus Lo Stretch line is unbelievable and offers the best of both worlds when comparing braid and mono and lends itself to rock fishing. This is definitely one line I would recommend. Reels for any of the rods mentioned should be in the 3500- 4000 size and I would only go to a 6000 size if I were using a 12 ft rod.

Fishing off rock platforms can be a rewarding exercise for those willing to put in the effort to rig up correctly and fish with the right gear. Don't expect to land much if you turn up with a 7 ft boat rod!

Leroy Tirant

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