By Alex Bellisimo
I love rock fishing and one of my favourite species to catch is rock blackfish. Funny that the luderick is nicknamed blackfish. But they are not as black as the rock blackfish which is truley black. There also known as pigs or black drummer. In late winter heading into spring they will be building into the spawn period and as result they’ll hungry and fat and onthe prowl around the ocean rocks in late August and September.
Pigs love a range of baits like prawns, green weed, bread and cut crabs. It will be most unlikely catch them on fish baits and only occasionally on squid so steer away from these baits when targeting this species.
The rock blackfish are caught on most of the East Coast ocean rocks of NSW and inhabit the washy areas in water depth as little as 40 cm, preferably less than five metre depth. This is only a guide as pigs can be caught in a variety of locations, and in some areas you’ll find them in deeper water.
Being a cave and ledge dweller they prefer to have feeding areas close to their home. The submerged ledges and boulders normally have a range of growth like kelp, red weed, pink weed, cunjevoi, sea tulips, and green and brown weed, all species that pigs love to feed on.
White water is cover that they pigs absolutely love. It semi blocks out the sun and helps provide them with cover as they search for food. As they feed pigs will duck in and out of their caves and back in as they are a very shy fish.
Generally a half tide to two hours towards low tide is the traditional time to fish for them. Although some spots are too flooded to access so even the low tide period can still produce good catches of pigs.
The rod I like to use is the Seabass 11 foot two piece 7 to 15 kg which suits this sort of fishing well. This Seabass has enough rod length to keep your line clear of structure when hooked into a sizeable rock blackfish which will most often hug and swim into their cave or ledge whilst hooked.
Being able to steer them away from sharp structure can make or break whether you land them or not especially when there around that 45 cm plus size. Saying this the Seabass is capable of lifting up a 1.8 to 2 kg fish if you're positioned up high and do not have the luxury to wash it up on the boulder or ledge, or your fish cannot be netted with a long-handled net.
When you pick this rod up it feels like an extension of your arm. This rod is light and has the power to extract fish like pigs, sizeable snapper, small to medium kings and more. The nature of a rock blackfish is that they are an aggressive biting fish. When a pig scoffs the bait it is common for the rod tip to suddenly load up. Although saying that they can also be a really timid fish just tentatively rattling the bait and being overly cautious. The Sea Bass rod tip is light enough for cautious fish and the pig can be extremely cautious especially when there is angling pressure in the area. A soft tip is great to have, but you also need stopping power to muscle the fish when you need to. The Seabass does the job.
Matching the rod with the right reel is just as important. The Daiwa 4000BG or 4000 Saltist Nero are a perfect matched and balance with the rod perfectly. At the end of the day you could go for a 3000 or a 4500 but I found the 4000 size better suited. The 3000 was fine for 8 to 10 kg braid but if you needed a reel to hold enough mono the next size up was called for. The 4500 was great but you would sense the unbalance, reel being slightly too heavy for the 7-15kg Seabass. When fishing for pigs it is ok to use line classes as light as 6 kg but preferably around the 10 kg and 15 kg for tougher situations.
The BGs are a tuff reel and affordable for the vast majority of anglers looking for a quality that is going to last in a rock fishing environment.
Let's look at lines. So you're dealing with a pugnacious unforgiving species that hugs abrasive rock structure so a tough high abrasion resistance line is essential. J-Braid Grand fits the bill perfectly and has amazing abrasive resistance for braid. 10 kg is good for most situations for fish from 35 to 50 cm and if you need to do some heavy lifting especially cliff fishing even go up to 15 kg. Daiwa’s J-Thread Nylon has a tough outer coating and handles abrasive rocks better than most on the market. It is tough to find a mono with thin enough line diameter, still has toughness, but is also subtle enough. J-Thread doesn’t hold memory like a lot of monos in the market. Having that coiled mono after a cast is annoying and more importantly visible to the fish you're targeting.
So there you have it my go-to outfit for chasing pigs of the rocks, a Daiwa Seabass 11 foot 7-15kg rod, 4000 BG reel, and J-Braid Grand or J-Thread mono. The outfit is light, strong and well balanced and a dream to fish with. If you’re looking to get your pig fix I can’t recommended the outfit highly enough.