Rocky shores are always very interesting and come in many guises. The key to catching fish on these shores is to understand what lies beneath the water that you are looking at and where the fish will be moving or lying. What is really exciting is that there is a huge variety of species and sizes of fish that one is likely to encounter on a rocky shore. Similar to the beach, drop-offs, current, colour and depth are very important. Fish use the current not just to bring food to them or to get a whiff of potential prey, but also to help bring oxygen over the gills and provide some lift as they glide or swim. The sort of places that are frequented by your bigger non-edible fish and edible game fish tend to be quite different to those inhabited by the smaller edibles or pan fish. It is easier to cover big fish spots and small fish spots separately.
Big Fish Spots
When one is targeting big fish, rocky points that stick further out to the sea tend to be a lot more productive than those places that are set back on the coast. One of the main reasons for this is because most of these points generate a rip or current that runs out to sea down one of its sides, depending on the location and prevailing currents at the time. The less movement in the water, the less productive the point becomes. This current does not just provide a nice place to lie in, but it brings all the smells and the food out to the big fish.
The best way to identify these rips is to watch the water on either side of the point and if there is a current you will notice that any object in the water will tend to be drifting slowly out to sea on it. Water moving in a rip tends to look similar to a fast flowing river with obvious undulations visible on the surface. Another good indication is that when a swell comes along, as soon as it encounters a current going in the opposite direction to the swell, it lifts a little higher than it normally would. If the current is fairly strong, one can often see a current line on the surface. The water on the one side will appear quite different to the water on the other, either by colour or turbulence. This current line is almost always patrolled by predators. These same fish will happily come in on the current as soon as they detect a whiff of bait in the water.
Try to identify how wide this current is up against the rocks as it is often only 50 metres or so wide and a cast beyond that is not going to be as successful as a cast that lands in the current, getting the smell message dispersed over a much greater distance. Almost every point has a very distinct current next to it, which will either be on the left or right hand side depending on the surrounding coastline. Certain points definitely tend to work better than others, especially in specific wind conditions. This is as a result of the current that is generated under those conditions. The more you look for the current, the better you will get at finding it and the more use you will make of it.
Deep water spots
Reading water can be quite difficult in really deep water especially if there is not much visibility and you cannot see the bottom. Normally however, on a good clear day, one can easily identify the dark patches of rock as opposed to the much lighter sandy colours. Most deep-water spots have a deeper water channel right up against the rocks with a shallower bank further out. Beyond this bank it drops off and becomes deep again. It is necessary to establish whether this sort of formation exists and to do this, one would look for the following:
In clear water one will see (good ‘Sunnies’ help) that the water up against the rocks is a deeper blue (deep water but sandy bottom) but not quite black (rocky bottom) and the colour gets lighter as one goes further out and then goes darker again as the water gets deeper. If the bottom is not visible (dirty water), then very careful observation should show the swell lifting when it gets to the shallower area of the bank and reducing when it gets into the deeper water on the inside. This is more evident on a low tide, but in a bigger sea, it will also do this on a high tide. In this case, there is little point in putting your bait in the middle of the bank because if the water is not working on the bank, it is highly unlikely that the fish would be there. If the water is really clear, then they are going to be over the back of that bank or else right up against the rocks almost at your feet. They could also be on the inside edge of that outer bank but that would be third choice. Generally in these sorts of situations, as soon as darkness approaches, the fish come right up to the rocks. Far casts are not going to help you here. Always remember whenever possible, especially in a new area, try to thoroughly investigate the intended fishing area on the low tide, with the sun in a high position if possible.
A good thing to look for on any deep-water stretch of coast is an outstanding feature such as an area where sand is churning at the entrance to a large gully or even just a large gully that is generating quite a bit of white water. These features tend to be permanent and attract passing predators. Another feature that can help you position your bait better is if you can identify a fairly big expanse of submerged rock, which leads on to a very narrow piece of rock. The only way that one can really see this is again by way of colour of the water or the way the swells tend to lift a lot higher as they pass over it or break on it. Fish are attracted to these areas and pretty much as you would do if you were snorkelling in a sheltered bay, the fish will explore the rocky areas and follow the edge of the rocky area, where it meets the sand until they come to the next big expanse of rock that they would again go and explore. The idea is to position the bait on that very narrow area that everybody has to pass over. Once again, this can call for some fairly accurate casts as a thoughtless cast in this kind of spot can put you out in the desert or in a crayfish hole!
This is a rock or reef that rises up to just above or below the surface and is surrounded by deep water. On a really calm day it may hardly be visible and would normally not work as well as when a wave is breaking on it and putting a nice covering of white water over the rock and the deep water, which is normally on the inside. Just as with the isolated sand bank, this is a very productive spot. It does tend to work better in clean water, but will also hold fish when the water is off-colour but then the water needs to be calm. Whilst big sharks can be targeted in these areas, unless it is Raggies or Spotted Gully Shark type fish, they are best avoided as you will invariably be cut off or hung up on the rocks. These sort of spots tend to be very “big edible-ish” but obviously one would need to be rigged to bully these fish out of the rocks.
In the next edition, we will cover the smaller pan fish type spots on Rocky Shores.