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Sydney Rock Fishing Tips


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I've been fishing in Sydney for a few years only, so not an expert. But I do get reasonably consistent results, thanks to the knowledge I've learned from my mates and the general community around here. Thought I put a few tips down, and I hope people find this useful. This applies to the Northern Beaches area, where I mostly fish, but the general tips should not be too different along the NSW coast.


Rock fishing can be dangerous and you need to take the whole activity as an exercise in risk management. Some basic common sense tips: Go with someone who is experienced. Don't go to spots that are on the news frequently. Always wear cleats or rock fishing boots and a life jacket. Always look at forecast - if the swell is too high or the wrong direction or the wrong interval for the given spot, don't go. Be ready to go home, or have a plan B, if you come to a spot and the conditions are different than the forecast. I'm not going to say which swell size and direction is dangerous, because it depends on the spot. If you're just starting out, don't go out if there is any swell over 0.5m. Generally, south-east is the prevalent swell direction in Sydney, so areas exposed in that direction tend to be the most dangerous ones.

Even if conditions look OK, be on the lookout constantly, as conditions can change fast. Don't ever turn your back towards the ocean. Expect a much bigger than average wave, ocassionally - perhaps once an hour.

Don't even think about this activity if you're not fit and can't swim.

How to Find Spots

Look at Google maps and search for prominent rock platforms, points, etc. Most good places for pelagics "stick out" so that the fish that follow up/down along the coast have to go past a corner, which creates a natural choking point of fish traffic. These places also have structure and current/pressure points underneath, which is where kingfish like to hang out. Look for spots that have rocky cliffs behind - it's likely that the terrain continues in a similar way under the water line. When chasing bigger pelagics, look at Navionics or other marine maps to find spots that have deep water near the shore. Caution - these spots are also the most dangerous ones as there is nothing to stop big incoming swell.

Once you've identified a potential spot, explore it when the weather is nice. Again, go with someone that is experienced. Some spots are tricky to get to - be prepared to put a lot of time into the exploration. It took me about a year and a fair number of trips to find my best spot.

Techniques and Target Species

This is what I've personally seen working, but.. the learnging never ends.

Livebaiting - I do this most of the time, as it seems to work best for me. I generally get kings and bonitos in spring to autumn, and salmon in winter. Yakkas are the standard live bait around Sydney, and can be caught on the spot, while it's still dark (rock fishing in the dark is doubly dangerous!!). Burley the spot with a mush made of breadcrumbs and seawater. Throw a bit in every 20 minutes. The rig I use for yakkas is a 8lb fluoro leader with a glowstick 40cm up the line, and small #10 hook. Best yakka bait is fresh chicken. I keep the yakkas in a bucket with an aereator. Once the sun is up, the technique for catching yakkas is different - throw in a bit of breadcrumb burley to create a cloud of it in the water. This creates a corresponding "cloud" of yakkas. Lower a sabiki rig down into the school. This will generally get one or two yakkas per attempt, but often there are sweep or the little "zebra fish", which you don't want. This is why I prefer catching yakkas while it's still dark with the glow stick + chicken, because there's less bycatch. There are two ways that I use with live bait. For areas that have sandy non-snaggy bottom, just set up a Y-shaped rig of 50 pound leader. One 50cm leg goes to a #4 star sinker, the other goes to a Hoodlum hook. Use a strong big hook - kings will wreck everything else. The rest of the setup is a strong rod and a 8000 Saragosa reel with 50 pound line. Pin the hook through the livie on the back, just below the first dorsal fin. Cast the livie out and wait. The other method works wherever the bottom is rocky and snaggy. The setup is 2m of 50 lb fluoro leader, with a big float near the top, then a small ball sinker, than the hoodlum hook. I pin the livie the same way and cast it out as far as I can. I have caught a bunch of kings, salmon and bonitoes this way. Rarely, something even much better..

Squid as bait - Don't bother with servo squid. Use fresh caught, either whole or parts, hooked on the same rig as you'd use for a livie, or even better - two snelled hooks about 10cm apart. This will catch whichever monster happens to see it first. Bronze whalers feed on squid, so you'll hook them occasionally. Otherwise, this is a kingfish killer. You can catch squid at many rock fishing spots. Just look for a spot that combines seaweed, sand and rocks in the same area.

Lures - heaps of fun, and they seem to work best in summer. Heaps has been written on this topic so I won't repeat it here. All sorts of lures work from the rocks. I like chrome slices for bonitos because they cast out very far and are easy to retrieve at various speeds. This will also work for mac tuna. Kings will grab them as well, but less often. For kings, I seem to have more luck with pink (for some reason) bibbed shallow divers and other similar stickbait.

A pillie on a ganged hook under a float is the standard way to grab a tailor off the rocks, nothing new there. It helps to wrap the pillie with a bit of thread, to keep the choppers from destroying the bait without getting hooked. At the places where I fish, this seems to usually only work just before sunrise. The bite tends to stop after that. I got some nice tailor that way. Otherwise, when there is an active school of tailor, almost any lures works. Surface poppers are heaps of fun, just for the visual effects.

Snapper: I occasionally get a decent snapper up to about 45cm, in the colder months, off the rocks. Best to target them once the swell has died down after a big storm or at least some rain. This works in areas that have rocks/rubble that extends out and then meets sandy flat bottom. The method is to turn up an hour or two before sunrise, burley with a mush of breadcrumbs and chopped up pilchards. Then cast out half a pillchard on a 20 pound leader, with just a hook, unweighted. Cast it 10 - 20m out, and let the pilchard slowly waft down through the water. Sometimes, this rig will catch a bonito, a random rat king or other pests. I've also had tailor chop off the terminal tackle - but it's just a hook, so it's not a big deal. The standard way of catching a snapper - a paternoster with a snapper sinker also works. Yeet it out far enough for the rig to sit on the sandy bottom and wait.
There's more details to cover for all of the above, but it should be a good starting point.


Edited by FrigateMack
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