Winter is the time of year to bring out the big guns on the beaches, offshore and even in the estuaries. But many local anglers rarely mention that they are planning an early morning or late evening trip to the rocks. Rock fishing can produce some of the best catches and it’s an excellent sport for anglers of all types.
The main issue with rock fishing is that you must obey the hard and fast rules of rock fishing:
1. Never fish alone, always go with a mate, preferably someone who has had rock fishing experience.
2. Always keep your eye on the sea, and if possible retreat at the first sign of a dangerous swell.
3. If you are caught by a wave surging over your spot, stand with one foot in front of the other, with your weight on the front foot facing the surge. Go in prepared, know the impending weather forecast and also spend time observing the sea conditions on the spot you want to fish before committing yourself.
The allure of rock formations to the big species is the cover available from white water caused by waves breaking on submerged reef and rocks. Channels and gutters between the rocks also offer excellent cover to fish. You can bait spin these areas with the same bait and tackle you would use on the beach or the river.
Fishing on the bottom will naturally result in lost tackle due to the wave action sweeping your gear around rocks. If you can put up with this, good fish such as bream, small snapper, cod etc. can be caught again using the same bait and methods you would use on the beach. Fishing with a float will minimize lost tackle and allow your bait to move with the surge.
When you hookup a fish from the rocks strike with the same lift and wind method, but play the fish out in open water before bringing it close in. Smaller fish can be lifted out of the water, but large fish may need gaffing. A rock gaff should be about 3 to 4 meters long. Gaffing the fish is the most dangerous part of rock-fishing. The gaffer is often in closer to the swell and lower to the ground then the angler to reach the fish.
Spinning off the rocks with lures is just as successful as on the beach. Use the same lure types and methods, but be prepared to lose a few of them to snagging on rocks. If you have to bring your lure or tackle over shallow rocks, lift the rod and wind it fast to skip it over.
Gear-wise, once you’ve got an idea of which fish you hope to catch and the types of areas you’ll be fishing, it’s then a matter of assembling the appropriate tackle. If the majority of fish you’ll be catching from the rocks average a kilo – 2kg, there’s no point in using really thick line or giant rods. For the majority of my Winter rock fishing I take one rod which is designed primarily as a tailor rod but is capable of handling jew, snapper and even small tuna, and if the rocks aren’t producing the goods this rod also works well at the beach.
A sensitive tip is great for feeling the bites and tossing light baits and the stiffer butt is there to help land stubborn fish like tailor and jew. Although sidecast reels are popular and durable, I prefer the versatility of a threadline reel spooled up with 6lb, 8lb or 10 lb Berkley Fireline. If you want to chase big fish, a heavier outfit will be required. In this case a strong sidecast or overhead reel spooled up with 8kg to 15kg mono such as Schneider is appropriate.
So take a night off and bring a friend for a great night of rock fishing and you too can reap the rewards.
LOCAL FISHING REPORT
Noosa: Snapper and a few coral trout over night and mackerel during the day on Sunshine Reef. An 80cm jew and a 65cm flathead from the beach near Double Island Point. Tailor and whiting along the north shore. Trevally, tailor and flathead from the river mouth. Flathead in lake Cooroibah.
Maroochydore: A few bream around the 28-30cm mark, chopper tailor and jew around the motorway bridge pylons and the river mouth. Flathead from Chambers Island, Bli Bli and the cod hole. Mud crabs from the wetland stretch.
Kawana: Gar and sand crabs in the lower reaches. Whiting, bream and flathead along Kawana beach. Tailor off Point Cartwright and the rock walls. Big bream and golden trevally from the Mooloolaba boat mooring and along La Balsa Park.
Caloundra: A 1.5kg bream was taken just south of Coochin Creek. Bream from the boardwalk and the bar. Flathead and bream off the Military Jetty. Whiting in good numbers around Bells creek.
Jordan Arndrr and his mate pulled a day off school to go fishing and ended up catching and releasing several bream, keeping this 28cm specimen for the table.
Despite the cool weather there are still a few full buck mud crabs on the move in the upper reaches. Tommy Harvey potted these coppery bucks from the wetland stretch.
Shadow fished from the rocks at Double Island point using mullet strips for this 80cm jew and 65cm dusky flathead.
Gary Gardiner prefers to use bonito strips for bait around the rocks at Yaroomba to lure jew like this 11.5kg specimen.