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How to Get Setup for Rock Fishing

By Alex Bellisimo

Setting your sights on catching rock black fish is a great way to advance your angling skills as a rock angler. Targeting rock black fish is a great way to vastly improve you speed, dexterity, coordination on the stones. 

Before you go out chasing rock blackfish (aka pigs and black drummer) I recommend you get the right outfit for the job. Doing so means you won’t be undergunned when trying to muscle blackfish from their home, or an outfit that is too heavy and tiring on the body.

The goal is to select an outfit that is balanced and light that you tuck under your arm, yet still has the power to put the hurt of fish when you need to. Balance, comfort, and control are the three things to seek for when selecting an outfit.

Below is an outfit which I have been using on my client trips and for myself and that I find a pleasure to use for most situations you will encounter this great fighting fish.

The Outfit

* Rod: Daiwa Seabass 110MH 335cm 7-15kg two piece

* Reels: Daiwa 4000BG, Daiwa Saltist Nero 4000.   

* Line: Daiwa J-Braid Grand 20 to 30lb, Daiwa J-Thread Nylon 20 to 25lb. 

* Leader: J-Thread Fluorocarbon Leader 20-25-30lb.

When using braid to mono or fluro you can use either a length of about 4m plus of J-Thread Nylon or J-Thread Fluorocarbon. I like to use The J-Thread Fluorocarbon, it is less visible to often fussy blackfish, especially in cleaner water. If you’re fishing straight through nylon rather than a braid to leader set-up I also recommend that you run a J-Thread Fluorocarbon leader. It doesn’t need to be long, a metre at the most is all you need to get the visibility benefits of a fluro leader. 

The Bait Rig

* Ball sinkers work well and there is a range of sizes/weights which will suit the current/wash conditions best. Ball sinkers from 00 to a size 2 ball will suffice in most circumstances. 

* A small swivel, preferably a black one as it’s less visible to the fish. These days you can buy quality tiny swivels that have a breaking strain of 30-40kg.

* Floats are optional. There are many choices of foam floats. Preferably one of approximately 4cm long by about 3cm wide.  A float stopper will be required. A silicon float stopper will do and you can slide it up the line to increase the depth you are fishing when you need to.

* Hooks should be strong for this specie. Two extra strong hooks like the 1/0 Mustard 92554 is a good all round hook which will be suitable for most situations.

* Sinker sizes and type can be optional. You can use many different types. I prefer to use ball sinkers as the variation in sizes are more minute enabling me to use the correct weight. The sizes are from 00 to 2 ball. Purchase size 00, 0, 0/1, 1 and 2 ball. There is also the split shot option. Just a tip, If you use split shots preferably purchase the quick-release which has clips to reopen your split shot.  So two rock blackfish rigs that you can use. 

The two blackfish rigs that I like to use are as follows:

* A basic rig I like to use is a hook and ball sinker sliding straight to the hook. You can vary your sinker size from as light as only using your hook for weight, this is called unweighted, to a size 2-3 ball size sinker in more strong current/white water conditions to get your bait down to where you need to which is close to the bottom.

* A float rig. To start you will need your silicon float stopper. It can be slid up the line with only a little bit of pressure then you thread your float in the line through the small tube hole, then you add a ball sinker, then a small strong swivel, then tie the swivel to your main line . Below the swivel add approximately 30 to 60 cm of 20 to 30lb fluorocarbon leader, then tie your hook on. Vary your depth you want to fish by sliding the silicon float stoper up or down the line. Generally fish a depth between one and three metres in a lot of situations.

Bait and Burley

Bait-Prawns are a popular choice of bait for pigs. I prefer to use the larger variety as the prawn meat is tougher than say a small river prawn. Smaller prawns get smashed by the ‘vermin’ meaning the smaller fish like sweep, mados, yellowtail and more types of species are normally there in vaster numbers compared to the pigs so a more resilient bait will last longer. Choice of prawns are from your local supermarket or some tackle shops have them in stock. The size like to use is a 20/30 meaning 20/30 to the pound or  approximately 25 to 60 to the kg. Banana, king or endeavour are my choice of prawn. Preferably peel your prawn before baiting up. Cooked prawns are even tougher and the whitewith orange/red colour of a cooked prawn stands out in the white water. White sliced bread is a good bait to use as well. Take the crust off and use the soft white section. The crust is also good for bait.

Burley-bread is great burley for pigs and other varieties of fish. When using bread for burley it will be handy to have a 10-20 litre bucket to mix your burley up. Put your bread  in the bucket, then add some water. As the bread becomes soaked/saturated get your  hands in the and start mushing until the crust and white is combined. Add some prawn heads in the mix as It is quite likely you will be using it for bait so it will complement the burley. Break the heads up either with your fingers or chop them up with scissors. Gently mix it through the burley, remembering that the prawn heads are friggen spiky so to avoid prawn spines in your hands.

Where, When and What Time

Rock blackfish are generally residential and are a cave or ledge dwelling species. They are found on the vast majority of NSW. When hooked they generally try to run for cover, back home and try to damage your line. For that reason it is strongly advised to be prepared with the right outfit, line, leader and accessories.

Most rock headlands have a population of rock blackfish and some more than others depending on structure, and angling pressure. Pigs are found in a range of areas on the rocks. I prefer to steer away from areas with a water depth greater than 6m. You will still find them in deeper areas but for better results fish water depth from 1 to 6 metres.

Fish submerged ledges, in amongst boulder strewn areas, over a ledge with water 1-3 metres deep. Fish like and an area where they can come up and graze then retreat back to deeper water, they also like the cover of white water as this gives them protection and security from light penetration into the water.

Water flow and weed, deliver food to them and provide habitat for their prey, and further enhance an area’s propencity to hold fish.

Traditionally the two hours before the high tide to an hour after the high is considered the best stage of the tide to fish. In some cases you will be not be able to fish a location because it will be too dangerous or flooded to fish at that stage of the tide. In some cases the low tide to half in is the stage of the tide to fish subject to location. Time of day is important. Pigs can be caught all day but for much better results pick a suitable tide during the low light period. The low light period means fishing approximately a couple of hours before dusk or alternatively from just after dawn to a couple of hours after sunrise. 

Must Have Equipment

The ocean rocks are dangerous and sections of rocks are slippery. Below is the equipment I recommend.

* I will start off with a life jacket. It is optional whether you use an inflatable one or a foam one. The foam ones are a bit bulky but I prefer them to the inflatable. It gives me piece of mind knowing that it does not have to be inflated if I end up in the water. I recommend the Hobie Rock Series 3 L 50 PFD and in high vis like yellow or red preferred. Please note that on the majority of Sydney ocean rocks it is manatory to wear a life jacket.

* Steel spike boots or stretch-on snow spikes vastly reduce slippage on the rocks. I recommend not using the stretch-on spikes on the extremely hard granite/ volcanic rocks as they can actually cause you to slip. You can even use Dunlop Volleys on the very hard rocks or a second option is steel spike boots. On sandstone rocks you can use stretch-on spikes as it is safe enough to do so or the steel spike boots.

* A raincoat is important as it will keep the wind off you and keep you drier when you get sprayed by a wave. A high vis raincoat is recommended compared to a black or a raincoat that looks similar to the colour of the ocean like a blue or green one. Have some foresight and take in to consideration that if by that slim chance you do get into a bad situation and emergency crew needs to locate you don't make it that much harder for them to find you because you are semi camouflaged because of the colour of your rain coat. Also a fluro strip on your raincoat can assist as well.

I could type much more info about rock blackfish but this should assist you to catching your first one. Please be aware that rock fishing is dangerous and you should fish with another person, let a reliable person know where your fishing and let them know when you will start fishing and when you will be leaving. 


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