Game of stones: How to catch fish from the rocks
THE other day I worked out that one of my small tackle boxes contained more than $700 worth of bream lures.
Seven-hundred bucks! And that was just one of my tackle boxes. I was afraid to do the sums on the others. And I don’t want to think about the money I’ve spent on rods, reels and other tackle.
It made me think how, in some ways, fishing has become unnecessarily complicated, technical and expensive. Don’t get me wrong, I like my bream fishing and I love my bream lures but do I really need that many sitting there, gathering dust?
For me, fishing used to be much simpler. My formative fishing years were spent on the rocky headlands of the NSW south coast, chasing drummer, bream, trevally and other bread ‘n’ butter species.
It was simple fishing that required fairly simple tackle. I had one outfit – the only other tackle I needed was a handful of hooks and sinkers.
I didn’t even need to spend much on bait. Some prawns or even a loaf of white bread was all that was required for a snappy session on the stones.
I’ve been leaving my bream lures and braided line at home of late and re-acquainting myself with the ocean rocks. It’s really refreshing to head out with some simple tackle and about five bucks worth of hooks and sinkers.
It’s as productive as ever too, with black and silver drummer, bream, blackfish, silver trevally, leatherjacket and small groper all getting in on the action.
The great thing about rock fishing in the country’s south-east is that it’s peak season right now!
While other forms of fishing slow down, rock hopping is the perfect way to keep your casting arm warm over the gloomy winter months.
Back to basics
As I’ve emphasised, rock fishing is simple–perhaps one of the most simple forms of fishing around.
My favoured technique is to fish a lightly-weighted bait in the area of wash close to the rocks. This simply involves casting a peeled prawn, piece of bread or chunk of cunje a few metres from your feet and allowing it waft around in the strike zone. The rig comprises a tiny ball sinker running directly down to a small (#6 or #4) hook. That’s all!
Using this method in the cooler months, anglers should encounter all the aforementioned species, with black and silver drummer and yellowfin bream the most common.
A mate of mine, who catches stacks of fish from the stones, uses a variation of this rig to good effect. He essentially suspends the simple running sinker rig under a small bobby cork. The secret is to use a long (two to three metre) trace under the float – that way your bait is close to sea floor and in the strike zone…but not so close that it gets snagged.
Light is right
A lot of anglers make the mistake of erring on the side of heavy tackle when fishing the stones, but you don’t always need to.
I use a 12-foot rod, 6000-size reel and 6-8 kg line.
I find 6 kg mono will handle most fish, including drummer to a couple of kilograms.
If larger fish are around, you might need to upgrade, but you’ll definitely get more bites by going light.
The worst thing you can do - and, unfortunately I see a lot of anglers doing it - is use super heavy line weighed down with massive lumps of lead. Sure, you’ll get good casting distance, but you’ll be snagged in an instant.
Anyhow, the majority of fish will be close to your feet, where the wash is, so long casts aren’t necessary.
You can catch fish at all stages of the tide, but a rising tide is best. I like the first few hours of the making tide, especially if that coincides with early morning or late evening.
Unless it’s calm, or I’m fishing from a high vantage point, I tend to avoid fishing over the top of the high tide. From a safety perspective, it’s the riskiest stage of the tide and I personally don’t like getting too wet.
Berley balancing act
The use of berley from the rocks is a divisive issue.
I know two really successful rock fishers, both of whom catch plenty of fish on a consistent basis.
One uses berley, the other doesn’t.
I used to be a committed fan of berley but now I use it sparingly, and usually only when the fishing is slow.
Overuse of berley draws in pickers in the form of sweep, kelpies and toads and it can make for miserable fishing. A couple of prawn heads or bread scraps thrown in very occasionally is all you need on most occasions. It’s a balancing act.
I realise there will be experienced rock hoppers out there who will disagree with me on this - and that’s fine. If liberally berleying works for you, by all means go for it. It’s horses for courses.
Ready to rock
In a world where everything - including fishing - is changing at a rapid rate, it’s good to see some forms of angling standing the test of time.
The straightforward approach to rock fishing that I used to great success 30 years ago is still as effective as ever.
There’s something innately rewarding about standing on a rocky ledge at dawn or dusk, dropping a simple baited rig a few metres in front of you, and waiting for that tell-tale ‘thump-thump’ that signals a solid drummer or trophy bream.
So grab yourself a fistful of prawns or bread, some hooks and sinkers and get out there this winter!