EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ROCK SPIN FISHING
The rocky outcrops that litter the Australian coastline are goldmines for predatory species. The rocks provide shelter from the current and are home to a wide variety of prey species for our fish. The rocks around New South Wales are ideal Australian Salmon hunting grounds, but you can likely find any of your favourite surf and estuary species lurking among the outcrops.
A NOTE ON SAFETY
Accidents do happen when rock fishing. They are few and far between but safety should always be the number one priority when out on the rocks. Particularly ferocious storms and rising seas will cause a problem and it is never advisable to try and brave the rocks when there are weather warnings. If the swells look like they are going much above 1.5 metres, I would save it for another day.
Some areas of NSW will now ask that you wear a PFD (life vest). This makes sense, particularly if you aren’t wearing cleats specifically designed for rock fishing. For higher, drier ledges, you will be fine in a pair of Nikes or sandals but if you are regularly getting down onto the low ledges, a PFD is an extra precaution, particularly for those that are not strong swimmers.
THE GOLDEN HOURS
Like most fishing applications, the best time of the day to head out to the rocks is at first light, and the couple of hours following it, or just before dusk. You can take Australian Salmon and other species in the middle of the day, but you will need something to get down to the bottom and bucket-loads of patience.
Tracking tides will also give you an edge. Most species like to bite when the water is moving. Fishing during the run-out or run-in will yield the best results from the rocks.
THE GEAR FOR ROCK SPINNING
Rock spinning is one of the most demanding applications on the gear. The poorly-made rods and reels will soon be exposed on the rocks. Over the years I have had all manner of equipment breakages and malfunctions, from snapped rods to seized bearings. If I could offer any advice on your spinning outfit, I would say, get both a rod and a reel that are made for each other and complement each other well. If you are chasing a species which requires a quick retrieve, go for a spinning reel with a higher-speed gear ratio. A mid-sized 4000 or 4500 should be plenty for Kingfish but you will want a 6:1 or 5:1 gear ratio for Bonito or Mackerel, for example.
Your rod and line set up should be optimal for throwing out a decent length cast. Long rods (7-9ft) and finer braid will give a good cast length. The line weight will depend on the species you are taking. For Tailor, a 12-15lb line will do the job, but for larger species, like Kingfish or Bonito, consider upping it to 20lb. I wouldn’t usually recommend going much higher unless you know there are bigger fish lurking. Your casting distance will suffer once the line is much over 20lb.
When spinning from the stones, your leader is exposed to some of the toughest fish-fighting the sea has to offer. As a result, you will want to go for an extra-durable leader. A tough, nylon mono leader should offer the durability and robustness to handle even the most aggressive fish. They are more forgiving than their fluorocarbon counterparts and stay connected better.
For me, metal is king. I predominantly use metal lures of between 15-25g in size. This will get you far with most rock species. For Australian Salmon, I try to go for colours that match Australian Sardine. A blue or green stripe stands me in good stead, as does pearl whites with red or pink heads. I will also dabble in surface stickbaits when chasing Kingfish and Tailor. When things aren’t going well on the surface, it is always worth having some sinking stickbaits, and when I want a change I will even throw some soft plastics out. I have enjoyed success on all of these at some point in time and in some conditions. If the fish aren’t biting try something new. The beauty of spinning from the rocks is that many species, including Australian Salmon, Tailor, and Kingfish, will smash a wide variety of lures.
I have seen many different fishos using a multitude of techniques, and much will depend on your target species. As a rule, for Mackerel and Bonito I will adopt a quick retrieve approach, as they like to hit something on the move. For Salmon and Tailor prefer a slower retrieve. Employing a slow pace with a bit of movement should be enough to coax a strike out of them. Kingfish prefer something more erratic. Jerky rod movements and plenty of twitch will entice them.
Whether you are a fishing novice, or a veteran looking for a new application to reignite the passion, rock spinning is a fun and challenging application that stimulates the broad as much as the mind. I couldn’t recommend it enough to fishos who enjoy the fight as well as the technical and mental battle we have with the fish.
Do you have anything to add? Share through the comments section below.