Rock and Beach Fishing

April 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Fishing Information

The ocean shorelines afford land-based anglers great opportunities. Rocky ledges and headlands all along the coast interspersed with long stretches of beach, often away from population centres, provide a fishing paradise for anglers.

beach fishingRock fishing should always be approached with care. Some of the rocky platforms that front deep ocean water are exciting places to fish, but also demand that anglers exercise good sense and caution. When fishing from rocks at sea level, most of the threat comes from the water itself. Large waves can mount the rocks and wash the unwary in, and natural growths of weed and algae can make surfaces extremely slippery underfoot.

The dangers of high-cliff fishing are obvious. There are also hidden traps, such as sandstone ledges that can be worn treacherously thin by erosion and weakened by saltwater absorption. You need to approach any climb-in spots with particular caution.

When to fish

When fishing from rock or beach, the tides come into play in a marked way. Low water can virtually obliterate holes and gutters on a beach, sending fish out to deeper water. On the rocks, low tide can create a stretch of broken rocks between you and the water into which you want to cast. High tides can improve the fishing opportunities or wipe them out – it all depends on the terrain and the weather.

By intelligently using tide charts and some knowledge of local terrain, you can prepare fishing plans that use the tides to best effect, and place you within safe and comfortable casting distance of fish that have been moved about by the changing water levels. An understanding of the feeding habits of your target species can help you focus your efforts on those times and places when the fish are likely to be in the greatest numbers.

The time of year is another important factor. Warmer currents bring with them the rich plankton, the bait fish and the larger fish that chase the bait schools.

Rock fishing

Fish do not live in an environmental vacuum. they gather in places where it is easy and safe to feed. These places relate to the underwater shape of the seabed. It is not always possible to see these bottom features clearly as the surging water off ocean rocks is often roiled and opaque.

Holes and guters, and inshore reefs which break the force of the surging water, attract and hold fish around the rocks. They allow fish to use eddies and back currents to keep their position near food. Rock crevices, stands of kelp and weed, and the foamy blanket of white water provide places to hide from predators.

Your tackle should be appropriate for the fish and the conditions. It is helpful if rods are around 3 metres or more. Your line should be a little heavier than that used in sheltered waters, both to withstand the punishment of the terrain, and also to control the fish, which will often be larger than those found in estuaries.

There will be times when your rod and line will not be strong enough to land some fish and, in those instances, a gaff on a suitably long pole is a practical fishing tool. Anglers fishing from high cliffs are faced with unique problems in landing fish, and they may need to use a grapnel or flying gaff to secure their played-out fish and hoist it up.

Beach fishing

In the same way that fish are attracted to depth and rock areas, and feed most freely around such features, they are selective and at least partly predictable in their use of various seabed structures when they visit ocean beaches.

There are differences, however, between the productive fishing areas around rocks and those around beaches. Rocky terrain may include gradually shallowing bottom shapes, steeply rising bombers or even cliff-like rock walls; whatever form it takes, it remains a more or less permanent feature of that locality. In the case of beaches, however, the operative fish-attracting features are anything but permanent, often changing form week to week, or in heavy weather, being altered completely in a matter of hours.

Beaches are not natural habitats for fish, but are more like highways and feeding places through which the fish pass. In the tideline areas there is an abundance of marine life. There may be channels, gutters, drop-offs and banks close inshore as well as further out. The tideline and close-in areas are likely spots for foraging fish such as whiting, luderick and bream, while the gutters and holes are popular places of concealment for predators such as mulloway, salmon, tailor and flathead.

Beach fishing tackle usually consists of a 3 to 3.5 metre rod, and a reel of your choice spooled with 4 to 8 kg line. If targeting larger fish, or fishing close to rocky corners at either end of the beach, you may need heavier line for insurance.


In many cases, the best baits available will be lying bored beneath the sand you are standing on. Other excellent beach baits include bait fish, such as pilchards, whitebait and blue bait and strip baits of fish such as tuna, squid and mussels.

Often, if you arrive at low tide, or the last of the run-out, you can gather your bait from the beach before you start to fish. The intertidal area inhabited by those sand dwellers is then freshly exposed and they are still close to the surface.

Be aware of the vulnerability of the stocks of these intertidal creatures, and observe any bag limits or prohibitions that may apply to a particular area. Such regulations are not there to inconvenience you; they are part of an overall management system to protect the resource – fro the benefit of you and other anglers.

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