There are many different rock marks around the UK, with the Cornish, North East and Scottish coasts (amongst many others) being famous for their productive but challenging rock fishing venues. These marks can produce exciting fishing, but special tactics and equipment are often needed to catch fish from these marks, and safety is always an issue.
While many anglers associate rock mark fishing with powerful fishing rods and big reels there is a growing trend towards fishing rock marks with light gear to make the most of catching the smaller species are present in marks such as blennies, gobies and rockling. The development of LRF (Light Rock Fishing) takes this idea to its extremes and yet provides some of the most interesting – and fun – fishing the UK has to offer.
Rock Mark Species
There are a wide range of species that can be caught from rock marks, with many species only being caught around heavy, broken and snaggy ground. Pollock are seen as a rough ground fish, and while coalfish may come into mixed and broken ground they are certainly more abundant around rock marks. Wrasse are another species which make their homes in rocky ground, as are bull huss, and of course conger eels seek out the rockiest and roughest ground to live and feed in. Cod will feed over any kind of seabed and are often attracted to the shellfish, crabs and weed cover that rock marks offer. Indeed, red cod are simply cod that have spent so much of their time amongst weeds and kelp that they have adapted to take on a reddish colour. Some of the UKs rarest and most unusual fish live in very rocky ground including species such as the Atlantic wolffish, tadpole fish and the lumpsucker, and the mini flatfish species the topknot also makes its home in very rocky ground. With hard fighting fish such as pollock, sought after species such as cod and the chance of catching something a little unusual as well it is no surprise that rock fishing is popular with anglers all over the British Isles.
Rock Mark Fishing Equipment
Rock fishing using bait requires strong and powerful equipment. Rods are usually stiff and powerful as they need to be able to bully fish over rough ground and through thick beds of kelp and weed. Reels are also big as they need to be able to retrieve quickly to get weights and rigs back over snags and have the power to pull big fish through the weed and strong tides – the Daiwa SL20SH is a classic rough ground multiplier due to its large line capacity and rapid retrieval rate – see suggestions for rough ground fishing reels by clicking here. As stated in the line section of this website shock leaders are often avoided by anglers fishing rock marks. The reason for this is that when a line gets snagged it will inevitably snap at the leader/mainline joining knot, because this is the weakest point. This means that new shock leaders and would have to be attached and tied on a regular basis. For this reason anglers will often use a 30lb mainline straight through, although with this set up only simple, overhead casts can be performed (anglers needing to hit longer distances may still use a set up including a shock leader when fishing rocky ground). There is a page about avoiding and dealing with snags available here.
Rock Mark Rigs
Rigs used are usually simple as this means there is less metalwork to get snagged and rigs are less expensive if they are lost. A single hook, either clipped down or left flapping, is often used, and due to the high chances of getting snagged rotten bottoms are almost always used – a review of weak link releases and rotten bottoms is available here. Many anglers forego trapped swivels and other gadgets and keep rigs as simple as possible to cut down the expense when they do get snagged and lost – the simple rough ground rig is cheap and effective and all some anglers use to successfully catch fish from rock marks. However, other anglers prefer the pulley rig which uses the weight of a hooked fish to pull the lead upwards and away from the seabed, reducing the chances of getting snagged when retrieving a fish. See how this rig works here. Cod are one of the most commonly targeted rough ground fish, but wrasse, pollack and other species such as bass and bull huss and of course conger eels will also take a bait from these environments. While worm and mackerel baits will all take fish from rock marks it is often the kind of food that the fish have been feeding on which produce the best fish from these marks so stock up on peeler crab, mussels and razorfish. Many rock marks fish the best when the sea is rough or choppy, which makes the safety issues (see below) even more important. The heaviest sea fishing gear is used when going for conger eels from very rough ground, with hooks up to size 10/0 and mackerel heads, herring or whole small mackerel being used as bait. There is information on a simple, short range conger rig available here.
Lure and Float Fishing from Rock Marks
While bait fishing from rock marks require the use of some of the heaviest gear available in sea angling, deep water rock marks can be successfully fished with light float and spinning gear. As these methods involve presenting a bait or lure in midwater (rather than on the rocky seabed) light gear can be used as the chances of getting snagged are lower, and absolutely great sport can be had catching bass, wrasse, pollock and mackerel. Many anglers have some of their best battles hooking a decent sized pollock or bass on light gear when fishing rock marks. See the sections on spinning and float fishing for more details and advice on using these techniques from rock marks.
LRF (Light Rock Fishing) is a type of fishing that employs the lightest tackle possible – 5-7ft rods that cast weights of 3-7 grams or less (some cast weights of just 0.5 gram) – and has gained popularity over the last few years. Generally LRF fishing involves casting and retrieving very small jig heads, jelly lures and spinners into rockpools and shallow water to tempt fish lurking in the cracks, crevices and weedbeds into taking the lures. This type of fishing places the emphasis on catching what is out there, whether it is decent sized wrasse and rockling or the smallest of mini-species such as sea scorpions, blennies and gobies. Anglers taking part in LRF will often walk long distances and take in fishing at a number of marks over the course of a session. LRF is all about targeting the fish that are overlooked by other anglers and having fun catching them. A much longer article on LRF, with suggestions for rods, reels and lures, can be found by clicking here.
An often overlooked method of sea fishing is freelining. This can be used from rock marks that provide easy access to deep water very close to where the angler is fishing, while piers are ideal for using this method. This is one of the simplest methods of sea fishing and simply involves attaching a hook to the end of a line and no other terminal tackle at all. The hook is baited (a lively wriggling ragworm is a good choice of bait, but mackerel strip, sprat and sandeel are all good as well) and simply flicked out into the water and allowed to drift downwards or wherever the tide will take it. Wrasse come in very close to feed on mussels and shellfish which are close in to fishing marks and can often be caught in this way, while other species, most notably pollock, will also fall to this technique. A few split shot or a very small drilled bullet can be used to provide additional weight to the baited hook if the tidal flow is too strong to get the bait down to where the fish are feeding. Using a very light spinning rod can provide great sport with this technique.
Rock Fishing and Safety
While any form of sea fishing can be dangerous it is rock fishing which is by far the most hazardous. Whenever a rock mark is fished there are a number of safety issues that should be taken into consideration. These are discussed in the article on sea fishing safety, available by clicking here.