There is quite a bit to rockfishing, and I want to find out what the most important 101 things to know are. In order to obtain a comprehensive list of practical and useful tips that will guarantee more and bigger fish at the end of your line, I collect things that have worked out for me in this article. Some of these suggestions are a result of empirical knowledge, a lot has been shared with me. Hopefully, there will be feedback from like-minded fishos and we can compile such a list together.
1. when stray lining, fish a big and a medium-sized rod simultaneously.
2. fresh bait stays better on the hook and big fish go crazy for it.
3. use burley to attract the fish to you.
4. big snapper love fresh kahawai heads and big, oily baits like mackerel.
5. big fish are often closer than you think, so don’t forget to ‘fish your feet’.
6. deploy the burley first, then prepare all the gear you intend to use and have it user-friendly, then cast the first bait.
7. a great thing about an early morning fish is that it is still morning when you get back with your catch
8. learn how to catch piper, they are deadly baits for snapper and kingfish
9. use circle hooks in challenging situations and/or when you want to lip hook a kahwai
10. when targeting big fish, always use your own rigs.
11. a handy net or gaff can make the difference between landing or losing that trophy fish.
12. kingfish love the low tide
13. take a first aid kit with you, depending where you are also a cell phone, vhf radio and tell people where you are going and when you’ll be back.
14. you can catch big fish in shallow water, but ledges with deep water and strong currents are much more productive.
15. have a dedicated pair of polarized shades just for the rockfishing.
16. don’t turn your back to the water, keep watching it while doing other things.
17. try to fish, even if it is only a quick one, when conditions are right, rather than fishing when it is convenient for you.
18. have a diary and write down when, where and how you caught those moochers.
19. tell like-minded fishos where you caught your fish, they will share some of their ‘secrets’.
20. pre-tie all your rigs before going fishing
21. look after your gear and do not lend it to people who don’t know what they are worth or how to fish.
22. have a couple half and quarter ounce sinkers in your tackle bag, you might need them.
23. have very small hooks, split shots and a float or cork in your tackle bag for piper or at least a sabiki.
24. a big bucket with sturdy handle and 5-6 meters of quality rope can come very handy on the rocks
25. when livebaiting for kingfish, stock up on bait fish and replace regularly to have fast and strong swimmers out there.
26. trevally, kahawai, piper, mackerel are perfect kingfish livebait.
27. when casting whole baits, cut the gut area open to allow for the juices to float and attract fish.
28. always check your drag setting. keep it at a setting where you can increase it with two half turns without it being greater than the breaking strain of your main line.
29. if your line looks damages, if a knot doesn’t look satisfying, if you forgot to put a sinker on, retie your rig; always use an appropriate and perfect rig. knots have to be perfect.
30. take a mate fishing, you’ll get out more often, go for bigger adventures and two anglers attract more fish than one. you can also fish different areas and techniques.
31. ground bait, ie throw small pieces of unhooked baits bits into the water and watch what comes to get it.
32. wharves are regular homes to bait-fish, if you live in a city and by a wharf, make them a regular night or early morning fishing spot.
33. go fishing when the conditions are right, not when you’ve got plenty of time.
34. don’t let less experienced anglers be part of the decision-making of where and when to go fishing (unless they are afraid of heights or similar).
35. use a circle hook now and then. use a circle hook rig for less experienced fishos.
36. go for a walk during low tide, unless targeting kingfish, the fishing will be slow anyway and you might find a better ledge, kina, paua, octupus and heaps more, maybe even a treasure.
37. give fish away to the elderly and/or people who cannot go fishing and up your game to catch more than just a feed.
38. sometimes even an 18 lbs heavy snapper doesn’t give you much of a fight.
39. If the rocks are wet there’s usually a reason it’s wet, always watch the water. Similar to never turn your back to the sea, but if the rocks are wet in a certain spot and it hasn’t rained, you just have to look-out a bit more, don’t you?
40. keep your catch in rock-pools, if cold and oxygenated enough instead of killing them. by doing this you can still let them go if you end up catching something better.
41. walk through the gorse, go scout and find that spot that has never been fished. when it comes to having the best fishing, it is always about finding those very remote spots that no one fishes off.
42. don’t forget you can salt bait down. you don’t need to buy or freeze bait. it is amazing how many big snapper you can catch on 3-4 salted down squid.
43. don’t always plan your fishing trip according to wind, weather, tides, time of the day. you can land massive snapper and kingfish at midday in summer on a clear day.
44. invest in a decent camera and make the time to take good fotos of your fishing adventures
45. if they can’t tie two fishing knots, they are not experienced anglers. don’t trust them with your good gear.
46. be safe, always be safe.
47. put fish back, especially the big ones. put them back without minimal stress to the fish, you don’t need a dozen photos of yourself holding a massive snapper.
48. stop fishing when you had a good go and had good success. it is good fun to have a fish at the end of the line, but if you already have your feed and had a go at the big ones, just call it a day and enjoy your adventure otherwise.
49. know your fishing rules and regulations. you need to be able to measure your fish accurately sometimes.
50. gum boots can be awesome for rockfishing, so many advantages, but if you fall into the water, they are very challenging to take off and when there is a current they will create a significant drag (just like any waders and so on)
51. when you’re planning to find a new fishing spot or find one you have heard of, travel with minimal gear. The lighter you are, the easier it will be to get to those unknown, remote spots.
52. if someone’s there before you, ask kindly whether you can join fishing the same spot. don’t be offended if they decline and don’t argue that “it’s a free country. this is not your private spot”.
53. take two sturdy, big rubbish bags with you (or similar), so you’re bag doesn’t get messy with the big fish you’ll catch. the second bag is for your friend who has forgotten his/hers, or for rubbish, keep it as a spare etc.
54. there are anglers who do not exaggerate their catches, be one of the few.
55. have a wet towel/rag handy, it helps to keep your hands clean and makes it easier handling and calming fish.
56. don’t leave ANY rubbish. don’t leave the spot otherwise messy either. and it won’t kill you to pick up rubbish of others on your way back.
57. the best fishing spots are always the ones you find yourself.
58. join a rockfishing club and make friends. you take them to your ‘secret’ spots, they take you to theirs.
59. take a torch with you when fishing the late afternoon. the action might only start at change of light and if you might miss it if you have to leave half an hour earlier.
60. respect fish. it takes time to fully understand that you are hurting every fish you hook. respect how you’ll keep your catch whilst continuing to fish, how to kill it and how to use it.
61. when it’s windy, rainy, there is a bit of chop and lots of white water, and uncomfortable to fish off the rocks, know that you’ll be the only one out there doing it. snapper come up close to the rocks when its like a washing machine out there. so do sharks.
62. I really need your help here, give us some suggestions on what you’ve learnt and want to share. this list is far from being good.