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How to Catch Kingfish from the Rocks

By Alex Bellisimo

Without a doubt kingfish are among my favourite species to target. For me they offer the entire package for a landbased angler. Below are some of the methods, locations, and rod and reel outfits that I use to get locked into this magnificent species. 

Fishing the Ocean Rocks

We have all read about, seen on the news the fatalities and accidents from not just rock anglers but also from people exploring the rocks. Understanding wave energy, large wave and small wave periods, swell direction, swell height, and
the rising and receding of swell and waves, are essential parts of rock fishing and are elements of the sport you should be aware of before you go anywhere near the rocks. Go to a popular local surf beach and watch the surfers to learn and understand these key elements.

The experienced surfers are nearly always right out the back past the breaking waves waiting for the bigger waves. They are waiting for the bigger wave period to maximise the ride they get on their board. A small wave period follows the big waves and you’ll notice the surfers sitting and waiting during this period for the bigger waves to follow after. You must understand the larger wave period known as sets and the smaller wave period known as a lull.

When seeking advice make sure the person you’re learning from is guiding you at the level you are at, and you understand the advice clearly.  


Safety Gear

Along our coast it is compulsory for rock fishers to have a suitable life jacket like the Hobie PFD 50+. Also, suitable footwear like steel spike boots and a high vis raincoat/spray jacket. Check your local council regulations for the life jacket regulations relating to your area. 

This article is more so based on fishing for kingfish off the ocean rocks. NSW rock fishing life jacket requirements can be found here. 


The Outfit


The Lures

* Shore Spartan Power Splash popper 140mm, sardine colour 

* Shore Spartan Break Through 140mm, blue/pink iwashi colour

* 7” Bait Junkie Jerkshad, white pearl or pilchard glow colours

The above lures are the least you should have. Although try not to overdo it. It isn’t necessary to have two dozen different types. Besides you will stick to what is working.


Bait Fishing 

* Mustard 7766D 5/0 to 7/0 for gangs coupled with sesame rolling swivels 76 to 90kg

* Mustard Big Gun 6/0 to 10/0 for med to large live baits.

* Torpedo or turnip floats

* Float stoppers 

* Ball sinkers when float fishing


Rock Fishing Gear

* Hobie PFD 50+ Life Jacket

* Steel spike rock boots Timber wolf or Adrenalin.

* Rain jacket- Preferably high vis.

It may appear to be a lot of lures and terminal gear but you can have a whole lot more when it comes to kings. The above is a bit more than a starter kit. With the life jackets I recommend to have one. Treat it like a piece of insurance, besides that in a lot of council areas it’s compulsory to have one.


Before You Go Rock Fishing

* Check the swell size, weather. Whether apps are often not accurate so allow for 50% error.

*When choosing an easterly exposed rock spot with deep water understand
that the wave strength/energy can be 50% larger and the waves can be thicker meaning more power.

* Always have a Plan B or even C. This means if you’re not confident and certain about the location choose a safer option.

* Always let a reliable person know where you are. A Google Map, pin the spot/area where you will be fishing, time you arrive, time you are leaving. And if you move, update that to the reliable person about the next location you may have move to.

* Make sure your mobile phone is fully or near full charged in case of an emergency.

A lot more info can be said about what you should do before you go. This is just very basic advice.


What to Look For When Chasing Kings 

A deep-water location off the rocks is a good place to start. There are several ways to determine if the rock spot has deep water. One is when the waves are approaching the rocks that your fishing. You want to make sure it doesn’t break into white foam. If it breaks into white foam it means it is shallow water or at least there are shallow areas. Another way is to simply look off the edge of the ledge and you may or may not be able to see the bottom. That obviously means deep water.

Having bait and lures may be a better option than just bait or just lures. This is a personal preference. Some anglers do not like to fuss over having the bait and would prefer to pick up their outfit and some lures and go fishing. Fishing that way forces you to focus on the lures rather than swapping between the two. But it pays to have the variety as sometimes all they want is a bait. You will see the successful YouTubers with lures and bait as they are looking to maximise their result on the day.



Casting out the Shore Spartan Power Splash I like to use them during the low light periods. Dawn to sunrise is a good time. Kings are often searching for sea gars, surface feeding or near surface feeding yellowtail, or slimey mackerel or smaller baits like white bait which are often high in the water column during low light periods.

Cast out your popper, wind up the slack and a sharp downward movement of the rod tip will create that splash, displacing the water in front of the cup of the popper. Pause for a second, then wind up the slack and repeat. A side sharp motion also works well but requires more room.

When using the 7” Bait Junkie Jerkshad you can fish it with a worm hook in the size range from 5/0 to 7/0. You will need a casting weight so a sinker on top of the hook with a variation of weights. Weights up to 1 oz or more may be necessary to get the casting distance you need.

Fishing it unweighted the sink rate is a lot slower but it can work well in calmer sea conditions. Increasing the sinker weight with ball sinkers will give you the sink rate you need and will produce a better result. Most anglers use a weighted jighead (1/4 to 2oz). The only issue I have found is with short strikes and the kings grabbing the tail of the plastic. With the jighead compared to the worm hook, having the hook further down the plastic helps increase the hook up rate.



My go-to bait if you want to fish dead baits is definitely the Eastern Sea Gar. Kings absolutely love sea gars and it’s one of their favourites. You can gang up a sea gar with three or four 5/0 to 7/0 tarpons with swivels in between the gangs. The reason for having the swivels in between the gangs is that it makes it much easier to bait up and it helps the gar to lay straighter as well. A soft occy skirt on top as an attractor and a rubber band to help hold the gar in place is the way to go. This holds everything in place and helps stop the gar from spinning.

Live yellowtail is one of the go-to baits and is readily available and easily caught. A sabiki jig can be cast out with a light 3 to 5kg outfit in a burley trail of bread or bread and pilchard mush. If that fails present small slither of pilchard fillet on the hook or a small piece of prawn. An aerator with a bucket or even better a live bait metal net and a cool rock pond is the way to go.  

Fish the live yellowtail preferably suspended under a float. Use the float stoppers which can be slid up the line so you can fish at a variation of depts. These small float stoppers can be purchased at most tackle shops. A torpedo float is more commonly used when live baiting with small to medium size live baits. When placing the hook into a live bait put the hook approximately 2 cm past the back of the head and approximately three quarter or one cm down in between the lateral line and the back of the yellowtail live bait. You can also put the hook point into the harder cartridge of the nose of the yellowtail. Be gentle when you cast out to avoid losing your live bait.

To Gaff or Wash Up a King 

Washing up the king is something that needs to be calculated. Only wash up a fish if necessary and if it’s too large to lift straight out. Washing up a fish means body surfing up your prize onto the ledge you are standing on. With some ledges that is not an option. Alternatively gaffing your fish can be a better choice. When gaffing try and avoid wild swipes at the fish. Have the point of the gaff only about 2cm below the fish then apply a swift upward motion to hook your king.

You may think why do a kingfish blog? They will be around until at least the end of June. So don’t lose enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to catching one of my very favourite species even throughout early winter so don’t miss out.

A lot more can be said about catching this majestic fish. Be enthusiastic, be versatile and be consistent if you want the big one especially if you live in the big smoke, Sydney.





















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