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Rock Fishing: The Complete Guide

Rock Fishing: The Complete Guide
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Rock fishing is fun, exciting, and rewarding. However, it requires skill, knowledge, and safety awareness. 

With rock fishing, safety must come first. Don’t go out when the weather is bad or when the tide is high and wear a life jacket. Find a good fishing spot and bring the right fishing gear, including the right type of rod, line, hooks, and bait. Be patient, and keep improving your skills. 

This rock fishing guide will show you how to fish Rockfish, even if you are a complete beginner and have never done it before. 

What Is Rock Fishing? 

Rock fishing is fishing from rocky outcrops that jut out into the ocean or sea, whether rock ledges, rocks that are already partially submerged in the sea, or low cliffs. 

There are several reasons people enjoy rock fishing. Some people do it for the fun of it. It requires an adventurous streak, as the waters are often unpredictable.

Some people enjoy fishing, where most people won’t venture due to the peace and tranquility in those spots. 

Other people enjoy rock fishing because there are specific kinds of fish that you can catch while doing so.

These are called “rockfish,” though that is a broad term encompassing a wide range of species that tend to congregate in rocky waters.

These fish are often colorful and sometimes rarely seen in traditional fishing areas, depending on where you are in the world. 

Some of these fish may be protected, and you may be forbidden from catching them in your state.

Always check your local government site for more information.  

When and Where to Rockfish?

The best season for Rockfish depends on where you are. However, it tends to be from the spring until winter. In California, for example, rock fishing season is between April and DecemberOpens in a new tab.

It’s not just the time of the year that matters but the time of day as well.

It’s best to avoid high tides and night fishing, even though your chances of getting a good catch will increase, due to safety reasons.

Early morning and afternoon are great times.

Try to avoid low tidesOpens in a new tab., too, as you won’t be as successful.

The higher the tide, the better your chances will be of getting a good catch, and the higher your safety risk will be. 

As for where to Rockfish, look up local internet forums or government websites.

You can also check Google Maps for rocky outcrops. As covered later in this article, not all places provide the same opportunities;

For example, California and Alaska are two states with plenty of options. Australia and the UK have plenty of excellent options too.

Ask some friends who go fishing and who have experience; try out different areas yourself until you find the best spots. 

Try to avoid rock fishing in slippery, isolated areas during high tide, as there are some risks involved in doing that. 

Rock Fishing Top Targeted Species?

There are over 130 species of Rockfish, but you may only have a few dozen in your area. Many of these species are colorful, large, beautiful, exotic, tasty, and rare.

Yelloweye is commonly targeted, as are blackfish. Other commonly targeted species include: 

  • Dusky Rockfish
  • Aurora Rockfish
  • Bank Rockfish
  • Black and Yellow Rockfish
  • Blackgill Rockfish
  • Yellowtail Rockfish
  • Brown Rockfish
  • Quillback Rockfish
  • Copper Rockfish
  • Canary Rockfish
  • Redstripe Rockfish
  • Split nose Rockfish
  • Tiger Rockfish
  • Blue Rockfish
  • Bocaccio Rockfish
  • China Rockfish
  • Cowcod Rockfish (protected in California)
  • Chilipepper
  • Olive Rockfish
  • Canary Rockfish
  • Vermilion Rockfish
  • Widow Rockfish
  • Green spotted Rockfish
  • Starry Rockfish
  • LingcodOpens in a new tab.
  • Rock Crab

Your local state government website may have useful information on Rockfish in your area.

For example, here is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife pageOpens in a new tab..

Keep in mind that certain species may be protected due to extinction concerns. Here are some great additional resources: 

Safety Comes First

Although rock fishing isn’t as dangerous as some people make it out to be, it does come with some risks.

That’s why it is essential to take safety precautionsOpens in a new tab. before you head out to the rocks.

In this section, we will discuss what kind of safety gear you should bring along and tips to help you stay safe while fishing on the rocks. 

Wear the Right Gear

Unfortunately, many people who go rock fishing do not bring along a life jacket.

The good news is that this is starting to change, and more people understand that wearing a life jacket will help keep them safe and that its benefits far outweigh any downsides.

Wearing a life jacket isn’t enough, however. You should pay attention to the kind of shoes you are wearing as well.

If you will be standing close to the edge, where the rocks can get slippery, don’t wear shoes, boots, or sandals that make it easy to slip.

Get slip-resistant footwear, if possible. Water and algae can both cause slippery conditions.

Remember to wear light clothing. Heavy clothing can weigh you down and put you at risk if you get washed away.

Wear shatter-resistant sunglasses; this will help protect your eyes from the sun’s glare so you can see what you are doing.

It will also protect your eyes from injury if your fishing lineOpens in a new tab. snaps back as you are trying to release it from snags. 

You should also wear sun protection to protect your sun and face from sun damage. 

Bring a Buddy

It’s always a good idea to go fishing together with a friendOpens in a new tab. instead of heading out alone.

Some people enjoy fishing by the ocean in solitude, but going with a buddy can help you get help when needed. 

If you can go together with a small group, that’s even better. The more people there are, the more help you can get.

If you do go with a buddy, it might be a good idea to fish in different spots instead of right next to each other.

Otherwise, both of you can be susceptible to the same risks and dangers and might not get each other help when needed. 

If you don’t want to go along with a buddy, or if you don’t have a friend available one day, at least make sure to let someone know about your plans.

Ideally, this should be someone you are in regular contact with, such as a family member who sees you every day.

Let them know when you are planning on going rock fishing, where you will be going, and the time you plan to be back. 

Check the Weather

Before you head out to the rocks, check the weather. This sounds so obvious and simple, but many people forget to do it. 

Just because you only have free time on Sunday, that doesn’t mean that you have to go fishing that day.

If the weather forecast is bad, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Having a little patience and waiting until the next week can save your life. 

It’s not just important to pick the right day, but it’s also essential to pick the right time.

Of course, you should never go rock fishing when it is dark, as there are too many dangers involved.

However, you might also want to avoid going in the late afternoon and evening. It’s better to go in the morning or the early afternoon. 

Inspect the Water and Rocks

Once you do arrive at your fishing spot, analyze your surroundings. The first thing to look at is the tide. Is it too strong? If the tide is extreme, fishing will be more dangerous. 

The best time to fish on the rocks is when the tide is not too high and not too low. This way, you can catch a lot of fish and still avoid the dangers of high tide. 

Step back for a minute and watch the waves. Are they strong and high? Where does it look like it would be safe to stand? Don’t stand right on the edge or next to where the waves are getting close. Look for dry areas that appear safe. 

Check Local Resources

Check if there are any local resources or directories that list safe places to go rock fishing in your area.

A government site is available, or even a directory put together by a fellow local rock fishing enthusiast.

These directories may even give you weather updates to let you know whether a fishing spot is safe. 

Another local resource you should have is your local emergency service, which you should keep on speed dial.

Keep your mobile phone near you at all times; you may want to consider using a waterproof phone case to attach to your upper arm or waist. 

Stay Hydrated

Finally, bring along some cold drinks if it’s a hot day and some food if you stay out for a while. Getting a heat stroke can be dangerous.

This waterproof ROCK BROS Soft CoolerOpens in a new tab. can hold up to 10 cans and will keep your beverages cold for hours. 

Bring the Right Fishing Gear

In rock fishing to be successful, it’s essential to bring along the proper fishing gear. Without getting too technical, let’s get into the main equipment you need. 

Choose the Right Rod

A long rod is crucial unless you plan on surface fishing. Remember that you may not want to stand right on the rocks’ edge due to safety reasons.

It is a good idea to get a rod that is around 10 feet (3.05 m) long. This depends on how deep the water is and how far you are from the edge, however.

You may want to go with a longer rod if the water is a little deeper or a shorter rod if you can stand closer to the edge. 

Not only should the rod be long, but it should be strong too.

This way, it will stay strong and steady even if there are waves or a strong tide, as is common with rock fishing. 

Nevertheless, you don’t want a rod that is too heavy. Remember that you might be standing on slippery rocks without a very stable footing.

A rod that is too heavy can make it more difficult for you to control and stabilize yourself. 

You might want to experiment with different rods to see which one works the best for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all rod, as everyone has different comfort levels. What might work for you may not work for someone else. 

Another reason why you might want to use a long rod is that when rock fishingOpens in a new tab., it is much easier for your gear to get snagged, as there are all kinds of rocks underwater.

Having a long rod will make it easier to maneuver your fishing line and clear it from the rocks if that happens.

This is also why you might want to focus on having lighter rods, as the lighter the rod is, the easier it will be to free it from snags. 

Choose the Right Line

The next thing you have to pay attention to is the strength of your line. This will depend on what kind of fish you are catching. 

For most rock fishing, if you are staying near the shoreline, you will be dealing with medium-sized fish, so a line that can hold up to 10 pounds (4.54 kg) will probably be best.

If you are catching large fish, as is common with rock fishing, you might need a line that can hold up to 20 pounds (9.07 kg). 

You may even need to go as high as 40 pounds (18.14 kg) if you are targeting very large, heavy fish and are fishing in much deeper waters or away from the shoreline. 

The material your line is made ofOpens in a new tab. is just as important as its strength, however. One problem with common, braided fishing lines is that they are not that great for rock fishing.

One reason for this is that they can break much easier from the tension caused when they crash and rub against sharp rocks underwater. 

Instead, a better idea would be to use monofilament lines. Not only are they durable, but they are stretchy and more flexible and are less likely to break.

Another material that you should consider using is a fluorocarbon, as it can withstand abrasions. 

What if you still want to use a braided line? You can do it, but you might want to consider attaching a leader line to your mainline.

The leader line is made out of one of the two materials mentioned above. This will help give your line additional abrasion resistance. 

However, if your mainline is made out of monofilament or fluorocarbon, adding an extra leader line is a good idea as it will help avoid breakage. 

Choose the Right Hook

The next thing you need is a good hook. There are many types of hooks, as well as different sizes. Generally, the larger the fish, the larger the hook you will need.

However, it also depends on the bait. If you are using small bait, use a small hook. If you are using larger bait, use a larger hook. 

For rock fishing, you might want a hook that has a thicker gauge, as that will allow you to hold on to the fish that you catch even in strong waves and tides.

The best thing to do is to buy a collection of hooks of different shapes and sizes.

This way, you can bring along a few different hooks and test them out to find the ones that work best for you. 

It’s important to note that one of the factors you should consider when choosing your hook is which fish you want to avoid.

If you don’t want to waste your time with smaller fish, don’t use a small hook.

Using a large hook will prevent smaller fish from getting caught by your line in such a case. 

Choose the Right Bait or Lure

Finally, you will need to bring along bait. There are various kinds of bait you can use in rock fishing. Let’s discuss natural bait first.

You can buy natural bait in a fishing supplies store, or you can even use fish that you caught yourself as bait.

Crabs, prawn, and small fish can all be used as bait and non-meat food items such as bread.

Your bait’s exact type and size will depend on the fish you are targeting, as smaller fish need smaller bait. 

Some people prefer to use lures instead of natural bait. Lures use a variety of techniques to attract and catch fish.

Switching up your fishing techniques and using either natural bait or lures at different times or during different seasons is possible. Both can be equally effective. 

However, when using lures, pay attention to the weight of the lure.

The deeper you are fishing, and the stronger the waves are, the heavier you want your lure to be.

Simultaneously, you will have to be careful not to let the lure get snagged on the underwater rocks. It’s important to stop here for a moment and discuss float fishingOpens in a new tab. for a bit.

Some blogs advocate for using a buoy or float when rock fishing, but the problem with this advice is that it does not consider the condition of the water.

When the water is particularly turbulent, and there are many strong waves, afloat or buoy can easily be swept away. 

SpinningOpens in a new tab. is another technique that can be used. Still, you must take appropriate safety measures and precautions, such as not standing too close to the edge. 

The type of technique you use might depend on where you are fishing and weather conditions.

For example, many people use bait only in the summer and fall while using lures in the spring.

Another thing you might want to pay attention to is current; if the current is strong, you might want to use spin fishing.

You might want to use lures for surface fishing but switch to fishing with natural bait when going in deeper waters to avoid snagging. 

If you’re looking for a good artificial lure, consider this Jansport 10-piece Twin Bulb Lure PackOpens in a new tab..

These lures look like squid, which Rockfish like to munch on and come in different colors.  

What Makes a Good Fishing Spot? 

Part of being successful at rock fishing is choosing the best fishing spot. One thing you might want to consider is how deep the water is.

Generally, the deeper the spot is, the larger the fish there will be. If the water is shallow, you will catch smaller fish. 

At the same time, deeper waters can be more difficult for newbies, so if you are just getting into rock fishing, don’t jump into the deep waters right away.

Start with more shallow waters and work your way up (or down). 

Of course, this will depend on where you live and the shorelines you have access to.

If you live near islands, you might want to go out to them, if safe, and try fishing there.

Another thing to remember is that the larger the structure, the better.

Fishing in larger structures will help you catch more fish and take home more fish in one day.

California, the Pacific Northwest, Australia, and England all have excellent areas to fish on the rocks. 

Of course, when you get to the place where you will be fishing, you have to choose the right spot there.

We already mentioned that you should choose a safe spot, which means staying away from rocks that can be covered by waves quickly.

Remember that the tide can change at any time, so keep an eye on it.

Don’t stand on a jutting rock that looks dangerous; if you feel scared, choose another spot. 

How to Find a Rock Fishing Spot

How can you find the best spot for rock fishing? You can use several resources and tools, in addition to government resources and local directories, as mentioned above. 

Ask Around

There may be some “hidden” spots where you can go rock fishing that you would never have thought of.

If you have any buddies who like fishing, even if you are not sure that they like rock fishing, ask them where they go.

Perhaps they have done rock fishing in the past and know some secret spots. 

Another idea is to ask on Reddit or online forums that discuss fishing in your area or rock fishing in general. You may find some excellent answers by doing that. 

Use Google Earth

Technology allows you to check out hidden spots on the coast near you without ever venturing out there in person.

You can use Google Earth to zoom in on the coastline and find rocky areas to fish. Sometimes, Google Earth photos can be a bit outdated, so keep that in mind as well. 

Of course, you will want to choose areas that you can access. If there is an area that you have to go through a huge forest to get to, forget about it; don’t make things too complicated for yourself. 

Scout Out Spots in Advance

A good idea that can help you catch fish is to choose the right spots in advance by going when the water levels are low.

This way, you can get a better understanding of the layout of the area.

For example, you might want to check for kelp bedsOpens in a new tab. or other shallow areas where food will gather.

You won’t be able to see this if the water levels are high when you head to the spot for the first time. 

Use a Drone

One way to check out areas yourself without actually being there in person is to bring along a drone in your car and fly it over the spot you found on Google Earth.

The problem with Google Earth photos, besides the possibility that they are outdated.

It’s hard sometimes to get an accurate understanding of the depth of the water, the slope of the rocks, and the place’s accessibility in general. 

A drone can not only help you figure out all that, but it can also help you check on the tide and waves without wasting time going out to the rocks yourself. 

Find a Strong Current

Although strong currents have their risks, they also bring more fish. Of course, everything must be taken in moderation; if a current is too strong, don’t risk it. 

For more tips on finding good fishing spots and determining whether a spot is optimal for rock fishing, watch this video: 

Video credit: Digital Fish

Tips and Tricks for Rock Fishing

Don’t expect to become an expert rock fisher the first time you try it.

Rock fishing is not something that you will necessarily master the first time around, so be patient.

By being consistent and going out to the rocks regularly (as long as it’s safe and the weather is good), you will become more experienced and start bringing in more fish. 

When you catch a fish, you can throw it in a rock pool and continue fishing until you decide to go home. This will help keep the fish fresh. 

Of course, you can also bring along ice so you can throw the fish into an ice bucket without worrying about getting it from the pool later.

However, going out to the rocks with too much equipment can be a hassle.

Also, if you place your belongings too close to the edge, there is always the danger of having sudden strong waves wash them away. 

You might want to bring along two rods or lines instead of one. By having two rods of different sizes, you will be better prepared for any situation you come across.

We already mentioned that you should bring along various hooks, but make sure to dry the hooks before you put them back to help prevent rusting. 

Benefits of Rock Fishing

Those of you who have heard about rock fishing but never done it before might be wondering whether it’s worth a try.

Rock fishing has its pros and cons.

The main con, we already touched upon, is that it can be dangerous depending on where you are fishing and the weather.

However, rock fishing also has many advantages over regular fishing. 

You Can Catch So Many Species

One of the top reasons people go rock fishing is that they can always catch interesting fishOpens in a new tab. types that they can’t catch anywhere else.

You never know what kind of beautiful, colored fish you will come up with, making it so exciting for so many beginners and advanced anglers.

The fish you catch not only look good but usually taste amazing as well. And you and your family can have a tasty, homemade dinner that you caught yourself. 

It’s a Challenge

Rock fishing comes with its own sets of challenges. The water can be rough at times, and you may struggle to find a good spot.

You’ll have to know what kind of gear to bring and what kind of bait to use.

However, it’s a challenge that brings back many rewards. 

It’s an Adventure

Those who love a sense of adventure and enjoy catching their own game will probably enjoy rock fishing.

You have to go out of your comfort zone to be able to head out to the rocks and go fishing.

It’s something that isn’t exactly mainstream in fishing, which makes it so fun.


Whether you are bored with regular fishing, or just want to try rock fishing out of curiosity, use it to get started. Follow the tips in this guide, be patient as you learn and improve your skills, and, above all, stay safe. 

Zaldy G.

I love feeling the cool ocean spray every time I hit the beach with a rod and a bucket of bait. I love the thrill of feeling bites on my line whenever I hook a big one. And I especially love the pride that comes with cooking a fresh catch and sharing it with my friends and family. Thank you for stopping by. Let's go catch some fish!

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