Sydney Rock Fishing

Trekking the foreshores and capes of Sydney’s headland has become a hobby Dale Ward has been very keen on lately. Along his travels he has found many sensational positives in rock fishing. One of these is sometimes seen in the sport in general – pushing the boundaries in terms of location. It may be threatening to some but audacious to others as he explains here.

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The legendary Blue Groper.


The Challenge Can Be Just Getting There

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Part of the challenge can be just getting to your rock platform but the rewards are plentiful if you can!

Many rock anglers will vouch that certain entrances and routes to honey hole ledges can be an assignment on its own before any fishing even takes place.

Active rock fishing and LBG angling was pioneered a time ago and there is no gain without pain. Although now ‘tuned in’ to rock fishing and the various conditions encountered, I still find myself out on the stones when the weather conditions and elements play against me.

If In Doubt, Don’t Go

When it comes down to rock fishing, the forecast can sometimes predict large swells and winds, don’t risk it, go flathead fishing in a bay, to many people die on the ledges fishing but when conditions play in your favour the fishing can be bounteous here in Sydney.

Showcasing some of Sydney’s accessible and not so accessible species to target from the stones is something I’ve implemented over time.

With a back-to-basics approach using various baits, I have been finding new advances with different styles of fishing for success on Sydney’s rocks.

Being a lure angler for a long time now, I have been reminded of a lot of things that I have seem to have forgotten until the past year and that is variety in techniques.

With many aspects to consider in rock fishing, there are some exiting and very effective forms to target relatively common prolific species.

Winter On The Stones

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Perfect conditions for safe fishing from one of Sydney’s northern ledges.

Winter fishing here in Sydney off the stones provides a huge amount of sport, with the run of pelagic fish like Australian salmon, large bonito, tailor and juvenile mac tuna. And let’s not forget reef species like drummer, luderick, Leather jackets, Silver trevally, snapper, bream and the infamous blue groper.
Huge, horse-teethed, hard pulling power of a train depicts the blue groper.

Introducing the Blue Groper

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An incredibly marked and hard to catch species – the referred blue groper.

These fish will have you gripping your rod with a fortitude of strength. Targeting this species involves the gathering of rock crabs and rigging a size 6.0-8.0 (Depending on the size of the crab) hook and pinning it through the back of the crab with 40-50lbs monofilament line and a small pea sinker. The red and green crabs are best, but the brown crabs also do the job. Now pickers will tend to eat your bait so be prepared much like drummer fishing.

A good tip I can give is to burley your spot with crushed crabs for better results. Find where the wash is and cast just beyond it amongst the hidden rocks.

A rising tide accompanied with the run out tide is usually better. The moment a Blue groper hits your bait, you will know about it. Run a fair amount of drag to stop these fish fast! Hold on because they will tear line from the spool in attempt to retreat back into their rock hideaway. Groper can be caught at most times of the day and as a table fish I find them to be a fairly bland tasting fish, but many fisho’s I know relish in their taste, I tend to release them but they are a great sport fish and will be sure to stretch your arms in their fight.

Hone In On Your Target

The author, Dale Ward, with another lovely cod taken from the rocks.

The author, Dale Ward, with another lovely cod taken from the rocks.

Although it’s possible to catch certain fish at any time from the rocks, some species are easier to catch during what are often referred to as “peak periods”. Early morning from half an hour before sunrise through to about two hours after sunrise is one of the most productive times to be on the rocks. During winter it can be quite cold, but these low-light periods are best for tailor and Australian salmon. Salmon inhabit the coastline, rocks, offshore, beaches (often in gutters) and frequently roam into estuaries chasing bait. They are found in the southern section of the country, often found in schools and being a pelagic species, my favourite way to chase these fish is on top water lures like DUO Press bait HD’s or when they are feeding on smaller baits I tend to down size to the Press bait 85 surface slug.

Down Size For More Sport

Many Australian salmon anglers will tell you to use 10-15 pound on 4000 sized reels, I will surely tell you to down size your gear…. I like to target salmon on 3-6kg rods, 2500 reels with 8-10lbs line if you really want to have some fun on the rocks, but have a buddy net your fish. The Australian salmon is often disregarded as a sport fish, this I have no idea why. Despite being a very dull table fish Australian salmon in my opinion are a strong fighter and when hooked display some acrobatic leaps and bounds that make it hard to stay connected at times, salmon will sometimes jump 5 ft in the air in an attempt to become free.

Too Good To Be A Baitfish

The author with a bonito spun up from the stones.

The author with a bonito spun up from the stones.

Bonito were once considered a baitfish; I believe it was due to their poor eating properties. Bonito are regularly overlooked for some reason in which I would not agree. Let’s talk about how bonito can provide great sport when fished on the right gear. Sydney most of the time will fire with bonito in the summertime and hang around until around June. Bonito are surface feeding fish and most often found close to the shoreline, this species can really create some fun with gear otherwise used on bream. A 2-4kg or 3-6kg rod fitted with a 2500 size reel and 8-10lbs line will do the job. They will come through in large schools and usually hit just about every lure (and or bait) in their path with some of the larger bonito I like to call “Rogue Bonnies” being 50cm and above really put on a show, they strip 10lbs line from the small spool with electric runs. bonito are a very accelerant fish, so don’t be too afraid to really put in the power when retrieving a slug (Metal lure) as they prefer the lure skipping the surface quite fast. Provided that you have the patience to keep casting until the speedsters arrive, your tenacity will be rewarded.

The Sensational Kingfish

Incessant surface feeders, awesome eating and great sashimi are what I think of when chasing kingfish. A trap ban was placed for kings in Sydney in 1996 and since, kingfish have flourished back in numbers. This species can sometimes test your patience, fight dirty and be very hypersensitive to catch at times, but rewarding none the less. In Sydney waters, schools of kingfish during the spring and summer months tend to be found well off the bottom from there frequently roamed structure, on the hunt for baitfish to round-up and can be caught on popper lures. kingfish schools that are feeding in the lower water column can be caught until June often by Jigging or bait fishing. The larger fish are more likely to be found offshore during autumn and winter. Kings like clean water and are likely to hang around structures and wrecks. You’ll also find them under floating debris where they feed off bait fish. Younger fish weighing up to 7kg gather in large schools, while larger fish often roam in solitary. But I have found that on occasion even though the majority of schooling kings are similar in size, quite often I have spotted some seriously large hoodlum kings amongst the smaller rat kings.

Stick Baits & Poppers

This fish took a liking to a cast popper - awesome fun off the stones.

This fish took a liking to a cast plastic – awesome fun off the stones.

I generally spin Stick baits or poppers in the early mormings from the stones to catch them feeding on the surface, the Aomasa stickbiat was designed specifically for kingfish in Japan. It’s 148mm long and sits nearly vertical in the water floating until retrieved across the surface in a zig zag action. Kingfish can be very tempermental at times and after the morning bite starts to die down and they tend to begin feeding in the lower parts of the water column slow retrieves on larger, slender sinking lures that represent fish like garfish. There is a bit of a technique I like to use, cast it out, and let it sink to the near bottom.

All In The Pause


After that give it a few jerks up like you would with a soft plastic, and a few speedy winds on the reel then pause. Let the bait flutter down the water column, this is when a kingfish will strike it. Using larger baits representing garfish can sometimes get you some rare by-catch. Usually snapper, and mulloway in the cooler months.

One sunny morning in the later part of February I was fishing for kings and managed to hook and land a rare and endangered Eastern black cod (Epinephelus daemelii) from a ledge in Sydney’s north.

This fish is quite protected, so after length and weight was taken and some quick shots of this fish, it was returned to the water without harm and Department of Primary Industries (fisheries) were contacted and data was relayed to them for further research.


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