Fishing From Rocks Tips: Expert Guide for Beginners

Rock fishing can be a great way to spend your next fishing trip and can also bring in large numbers of fish in a short amount of time.  This article …

Rock fishing can be a great way to spend your next fishing trip and can also bring in large numbers of fish in a short amount of time. 

This article will take a closer look at some of the best fishing techniques as well as safety precautions to keep in mind. 

Fishing for a variety of species from the rocks can be exciting and rewarding, but it also requires patience, skill, and a focus on safety to make the most out of your weekend.

Rock Fishing Rods

Rock Fishing
Safety should be a top priority when rock fishing, so a longer rod to get a better casting distance can help you get a better footing on the rocks while still getting your lure or bait out to the spot you want to be fishing in.

There is a wide range of different rods you can consider for rock fishing. Since you’ll be fishing closer to shore, a longer rod length is a great choice as it gives you the distance you need for catching larger fish around the rocks.

When it comes to a general rod, I prefer using a 10-foot spinning length. I usually focus on having a rod with a medium or medium-fast action that can handle a larger saltwater spinning reel in the 6000 series range. 

You’ll be standing on some potentially precocious rocks when rock fishing, and you want to ensure safety is one of your top priorities. Having a longer rod to get a better casting distance can help you get a better footing on the rocks while still getting your lure or bait out to the spot you want to be fishing in.

In addition to having a long spinning rod, you also want to be sure it can withstand a lot of force and bending. Not only will the fish be tugging on your rod once they are hooked, but the surf itself can put a lot of pressure on your rod too. The last thing you want is for the carbon fiber to break in the middle of hauling in a nice catch.

Rock Fishing Line

After you have selected the right fishing rod, you want to get your hands on a line that is durable and strong. Like your rods, fishing lines will be under a bit more pressure than normal due to the waves and tides pulling on it as well as potentially rubbing them against rough surfaces and other rocks.

When rock fishing, I prefer using a good brand of monofilament fishing line. Some anglers think a braided line would be good for the extra strength, but the braided fishing line can be very prone to snapping under pressure as well as abrading on rocks or other rough surfaces.

The pound test will depend on the fish you are targeting. If you are going for a small fish to medium-sized species, a 10-pound test is normally fine.

For larger species or those that will be putting up a good fight, a 20-pound test is normally recommended. This is also a good choice for most fishing in more active surf or if you will be around a lot of rocks that can snag or cut into your line.

For deeper dwelling species at a long cast, a 40-pound line may be needed. This line is also good for bigger fish near the surface but is commonly used when fishing in among coastal rocks and cliffs for fish that will stay much lower in the water.

As mentioned before, monofilament is my personal preferred fishing line, but the fluorocarbon line is also usable in this situation. It is actually somewhat better at abrasion resistance than monofilament may be.

Rock Fishing Reels

Rock Fishing 1
A baitcaster reel is lightweight and easy to use, making it suitable for beginners and for saltwater fishing from rocks. They are versatile and can be used for catching different-sized fish species.

For a lightweight fishing reel, a baitcaster is a good option. They are extremely easy to use, which makes them great for beginning rock fishing anglers, and they are also great for saltwater use when you fish from the rocks. Their internal components are protected from the elements with a sealed case that helps prevent rust and corrosion over the years.

Baitcasting reels are also great for a variety of different-sized species. You don’t need to focus on any one size category with most baitcasting reels and can instead focus on any size of fish you want to catch, from small panfish to larger trophies.

Another popular choice, and one of my personal favorites, is a stronger spinning reel. When compared to a baitcaster, spinning reels allow you to feel a lot more bites and nibbles, snags, and whether or not your lines might be scraping against something.

Both baitcaster rods and spinning reels will come in different gear ratios depending on your needs. One ratio will be focused on power, and the other will be on speed. When fishing deep or casting out extremely far, a speed ratio is your better option, as it will get the fish back to you in a shorter amount of time.

The Rock Fishing Baits

As with all fishing, bait is important. There is a wide variety of different dead or live bait you can use for rock fishing, and each will have better or worse success depending on a number of factors. These factors can include the species you are targeting, the area you are fishing in, the season, and what natural food items are already present in that area.

Some of the most popular bait for rock fishing are shrimp, small baitfish, and crabs. You can also use other types of food, including hotdogs, chicken breast, or bread. The size of the bait will determine the size of fish you attract and also catch.

Larger bait dropped into the strike zone will be nibbled on but mostly ignored by smaller fish, and smaller bait will normally be ignored by larger fish.

Rock Fishing Lures

Rock Fishing 2
It is important to adjust the type of lure and fishing technique depending on the current and water conditions. Realistic lures shaped like squid, shrimp, or crab are available and can effectively get quick reactions from fish.

Like baits, there is a wide range of different plastic and metal lures that will attract fish. The biggest consideration to keep in mind with lures is that you may need to adjust your fishing lure and style depending on the current or when rock fishing deeper water.

For example, in cooler months with heavy currents or strong winds, you might be better off with spin fishing. This hybrid technique is a great way to deal with a strong current that might otherwise pull your lure into areas you want to avoid.

When rock fishing in a heavy current or waves, you want a lure that is heavier than average. Even smaller lures can be found in higher weights and densities, but if your favorite lure is still a bit too light, adding a few weights to the monofilament can help keep your lure in place.

If you’re a fan of natural bait but still want to try a lure, rest assured there are plenty of realistic lures available on the market. Some of the best ones that will get you quick reactions from fish are squid, shrimp, and crab-shaped lures.

Rock Fishing Rigs

Now that you have determined which rod, reel, line, and bait or lure will work for rock fishing, it’s time to think about the rig you might be using. There are dozens of different types of rigs, and some will perform better than others in different surf conditions.

Each rig will also work better with different baits or lures, with some working well with chunks of meat or bread, while others will do better with realistic shad lures, creature lures, or spoons.

For rock fishing, most anglers will reach for the fish-finder rig. This is a very simple rig that is great for beginners and experienced anglers alike. It consists of a leader that has a hook and a barrel swivel on your main line, with a sliding sinker attached. The sinker can be adjusted in size and weight depending on the amount of current you have to deal with.

Another very popular choice is the three-way rig. It is a very good option for very rugged coastal areas and is definitely the one to grab if you are getting snagged often. The three-way swivel used in this rig is an attachment point for your main line, leader line, and a sinker line.

Rock Fishing Technique

Rock Fishing 3
The depth of the water and the type of fish being targeted will determine whether to fish deep or shallow. When fishing deep, the bait or lure should sink quickly to stay in the area where it was cast.

Depending on your personal preference as well as the fish you are targeting, you may want to fish deep or fish shallow. If you’re on an outcropping of rocks, but the water is pretty shallow, you’ll need to cast far to get deeper water fish. Luckily, if you have a 10-foot rod, casting longer distances will be easy.

When rock fishing deep, you want your bait or lure to sink quickly, so it stays in the area you cast. A slow-sinking lure can be carried around by the waves or current to areas away from fish hiding spots or even into areas where it will get snagged, leaving you to cut the line and lose your lure.

Once your lure or bait has sunk to the depth you want it, it’s time to start enticing the fish to come closer. To do this, you will need to start moving your rod back and forth so your lure will make the same movements. This zig-zag pattern can be done continuously, or you can stop and let the lure sink or float for a few seconds before doing the same movement.

This start-and-stop rock fishing technique is great for bringing in predatory fish as they will see this as an injured or weak fish and an easy meal. It’s not uncommon to have most fish strike your lure within a few seconds of it sinking into the water, so be prepared to quickly start reeling it back in.

Rock Fishing Dangers

As with any fishing trip, the water can be very dangerous to be around – especially the ocean. When rock fishing, it’s important that you keep safety at the forefront of your mind and take it seriously as well. You also need a few specific pieces of gear to help you along.

Always keep reliable shoes or boots on your feet when walking around on the rocks. These rocks can be sharp as well as slippery, and the last thing you want is to slip and fall into the water or cut your feet on a jagged rock edge.

You also want to fish from the rocks with a buddy. This is important when you are fishing from a boat too. Someone should always be with you or at least know where you are and when to expect you in case of a boating or rock fishing emergency or accident.

Consider wearing a personal floatation device or PFD. There are many different types of PFD you can find on the market, so the days of a large and bulky orange mattress around your neck are long gone. Today, you can find PFDs that are just as thin as a boating vest and will automatically inflate when submerged in water.

Keep an eye on the weather, including the changes in the tides. Each area will have a designated rising tide time. If you are fishing during low tide, be sure you know when high tide will happen so you can be off the rocks before then.

Final Safety Tips

Rock fishing can be a fun and exciting hobby for any angler to enjoy. As long as you keep in mind that the ocean is a powerful and potentially dangerous force to be reckoned with and that the weather can change within minutes, you will have a very enjoyable time in some of the best spots for trophy fish near the coast.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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