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. These marks can produce exciting fishing, but specialised methods 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. This can be the case when fishing for large species which are found across rocky areas such as conger eels, bull huss and big pollock. However, light gear can also be used to fish from rock marks. Many anglers have success using spinning rods or bass rods to floatfish for species such as wrasse from deep water rock marks, while anglers can also target smaller fish from these areas using lighter spinning rods and spinners. Many rocky areas are also very productive for mackerel in the summer months.
Rock Mark Species
There are a wide range of species that can be caught from rock marks, with certain species only being caught around heavy, broken and snaggy ground. Pollock a species that favour rough ground, as are the closely related coalfish. Wrasse are another species which inhabit rocky areas, as are bull huss and conger eels. Cod will feed over a range of different types 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 topknot also makes its home in very rough ground.
Rock Mark Fishing Equipment
When targeting large species such as conger eels and bull huss over rocky ground anglers 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 combat 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. Anglers fishing snaggy, rocky ground often avoid using a shockleader. 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. Weed will also catch and gather on the leader knot. For these reasons anglers will often use a 30lb mainline straight through, although, with this set up only simple, overhead casts can be performed, although as the vast majority of rock marks offer deep water close in being limited to this type of casting is rarely a problem. There is a page about avoiding and dealing with snags available here.
Rock Mark Rigs
Anglers fishing over rough, rocky ground avoid complicated rigs and use basic, simple rigs which use a minimum of terminal tackle. This is because there are fewer terminal tackle components to get snagged and if rigs are lost it is less costly for the angler.
The pulley rig (pictured above) is a classic rough ground rig. This rig 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. Another option is us use a rig incorporating weak link release (also known as a rotten bottom). This provides a way of detaching a weight which has become snagged and retrieving the rest of the rig (along with any hooked fish) – a review of weak link releases and rotten bottoms is available 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 sources that the fish have been feeding on which produce the best fish from these marks. This means that peeler crab, mussels and razorfish can be more effective than worm baits. Anglers fishing for large conger eels may step up to very large baits such as mackerel flappers, whole herring, squid or small mackerel. There is information on a simple, short-range conger rig available here.
Lure and Float Fishing from Rock Marks
While bait fishing for big fish 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 snaggy seabed) light gear can be used and great sport can be had catching species such as wrasse, pollock, coalfish and mackerel.
See the sections on spinning and float fishing for more details and advice on using these techniques from rock marks.
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.