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Thread: Rockfish tips and tricks 101, based on interest 201 may become available.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    on the river

    Default Rockfish tips and tricks 101, based on interest 201 may become available.

    Much of this info is widely known, but to those starting out will be a goldmine.

    The "Who":
    Nearshore pelagic species - namely black and blue rockfish, cabezon, kelp greenling, ling cod, quillback rockfish, china rockfish, vermillion rockfish, tiger rockfish, and the occasional canary rockfish (That must be released).
    There are many other oddities to be caught from time to time, including squid, salmon, halibut, sole, and others.

    You will want to either buy or print a chart to accurately identify all the species, or just spend some good time memorizing them online as there are some protected species, and first off - anglers are responsible for protecting these species to maintain this awesome fishery, and second - tickets aren't fun, and the marine enforcement at the beach does their job well. (As always appreciate all the hard work guys!)

    These species, other than salmon or squid, are unbelievable quality white meat fish species. Perfect for many culinary options.

    Part of the undying thrill about nearshore rock fishing is that every time you drop that jig or lead down, it's a mystery as to what species will grab ahold. Another part of the thrill, is that fishing is quite often fast and furious with limits very common - quite the contrast to many days salmon fishing in the rivers.

    The "What" (gear selection):
    Quite to our advantage, these species are for the most part voracious predatory fish. This means that it may or may not resemble food and they will probably come take a taste.
    The most common lure configuration, is a jig with 1 to 2 shrimp flies attached above the jig. The jig creates the weight necessary to get your lure to the bottom, or level of suspended fish and the shrimp flies allow for multiple baits in the area. This setup also creates a "Jig chasing a shrimp" scenario that predators like to take advantage of.

    To be perfectly realistic here, just about any type of jig will work for rockfish. This allows for a wide range based on angler preference. They also vary widely from quite inexpensive to absurdly expensive jigs.

    You are currently allowed to, while fishing for rockfish, use 3 hooks (varies seasonally and per area, so always consult regulations). There are other conditions, including salmon in the area and retention of those salmon that necessitates barbless single hooks, ect so again - READ THOSE REGS!
    Here is the most common method (knot) for attaching multiple hooks to the same leader:

    Practice a few times, and get good at it. It's a very simple knot.

    Jig options:

    Shrimp fly options:

    The above images are in no way indicative of the entire selection of jigs available or that work, however are the primary types I use. Another quite often used jig is called a "pipe jig", and is literally a section of copper pipe filled with lead and having an eyelet and hook attached.

    I would venture to say that 60%+ of the rockfish caught on my boat come from those lead torpedo's pictured above with no paint on them whatsoever, just a curly tail on the hook and beating the rocks.

    You absolutely can add scent, or bait (when allowed per regulations) to this system. When using bait, I like herring, sardine, or my personal favorite is to buy some squid and cut them up into roughly 1/2 to 1 inch chunks. The squid is so tough it often stays on for multiple fish, whereas the baitfish is often gone every bite.
    Many of the oil or gel scents we use in the river work awesome in the ocean, and there are some specifically meant for this application as well.

    Onto the rod - The normal jigs that I use vary from 1oz up to 8ozs, depending on drift speed and depth. You need a reasonably stout rod to handle that much weight all day long, and since it's not uncommon to hook 3 fish at a time (one on each hook, or sometimes one biting onto another) you need something with enough power to get them to the boat.
    Similarly to the jigs, there are a ton of perfectly functional options, ugly sticks are a great option for the price point. Shimano makes some killer jig rods, for the price of 4 ugly sticks. Up to you. Salmon backbouncing rods often work great.
    I like to use line counter reels spooled with #65 braid (I use tufline XP), with at least 20 feet of #30 mono (I use Maxima UG) as a top shot. The jigs are in and around the rocks constantly, and as such you will loose plenty of them. A direct tie to the braid is a nightmare when you snag unless you use light hooks that you can bend out. I still do not recommend this even with the use of soft hooks.
    "Why don't you use mono all the way?" - you absolutely can, and many charter boats (read professionals) do. However this is partly due to ease of working, one less knot in the system, easier to untangle (tangles happen quite often on charter boats), and cost.
    I like the braid as the decrease in diameter causes a decrease in surface area and thus drag/resistance of the water is lessened. You aren't in a purely straight line between you and your lure when jigging, it's an arc based on gravity, drag, and current. The decreased drag of the braid allows there to be less of a "bow" in the line, allowing for increased sensitivity. I like to know what's going on down there the second it happens, that might not be worth $25 per reel to other anglers, totally optional.

    The "When":
    This is a conditionally dictated fishery, as adverse weather can be quite dangerous in the near shore surf. My rule of thumb is to check 3 different surf prediction sites - and then average their predictions.
    Second rule (needs info from first) - If the surf is predicted at greater than half the width of your transom, don't go out unless you are very confident and do this frequently like I do.
    The greater the interval between waves makes for a comfier and comfier day as the waves spread out (read larger interval means flatter in sensation).

    The sites I use:

    The "Where":
    Nearly any rock (not always rock for that matter) structure will hold fish at varying times, based on currents and food availability.
    Much of the time fish are concentrated near the structure, though the distance does vary. There are certain conditions of food availability that are often referred to as "upwellings" (current and food), where the fish may literally be all over the surface or suspended at whatever level the dietary advantage is.
    Upwellings are in my experience largely simply luck to come across. They usually occur where you are fishing on a pretty decent bite, and then out of nowhere fish are jumping and rolling all over near the boat. In those instances you can quite seriously cast just about any lure you have tied on near the most recent jump and will have a fish on within seconds. These frenzies can last from minutes to hours.

    Most guys are extremely stingy with telling you the specific location of rockpiles they like. Being a "sand flea" and following a charter boat around will get you teased, but you only need to do it once or twice to find some spots.
    Instead of facing ridicule, you can purchase a navigational chart, and from there it is quite simple to pick spots.
    Pay attention to the depth contours of the chart, go and investigate all the spires, or radical depth gradients. Some are extremely close to the ports, and others take a little work and a good gps system to get to.

    A good depthfinder is critical, I use the Humminbird 698ci HD SI, with the nav/chart chip. Again there are TONS of options, find what best suits your situation.

    There is a comprehensive list of necessary equipment to safely and legally cross a bar into the ocean, available through the Coast Guard. Make sure you have all of the necessary gear and that it is in maintained and working condition!

    The "Why" - is self explanatory really! Why aren't you packing for a trip to the beach?

    P.s. Many charter operations offer bottom fishing trips for half of what a river salmon trip costs, check 'em out if you are bankbound.

    - Raw and unedited, likely changes to come. Additions, or edits pending.
    Last edited by Osmosis; 02-17-2014 at 04:42 PM.
    "Chuck Norris talks in the fourth person"

  2. #2


    Very nice. I got two of the lures in the first pic (the orange, brown, blueish, and chart/orange) fish looking things at a garage sale in a tackle box. Never knew what to use them on, now I have ideas. Unfortunately I'm bank bound but do get some cool catches from various jetty's. Going to have to take a charter sometime though. I'd like the 201 installment anytime.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Linnton, OR
    Blog Entries


    An awesome post to get people's appetites wet and hopefully get some feet wet for some of you, as well!

    I had the pleasure of doing some rockfishing with Alan a couple summers ago when he came down to Newport while I was staying there for my seasonal job with ODFW. I was really surprised how well his 17' Free Drifter handled the waters, obviously the credit going to the skilled captain. After setting the crab pots we were quickly able to find a nice rock pile right outside of the jaws, and while the weather kept us from being able to fish for too long we still were able to get into a few fish. You truly don't know what you are going to catch, and most likely its going to taste delicious! The first fish brought up was a ling cod that was sadly just shy of being keeper size, so we had to let it go. But the second fish was a juvenile halibut! Also unfortunately too small. But it was still an awesome experience.

    Charters are a very inexpensive way to get out and test your sea legs, and they really do a great job getting people their limits of rockfish for a very modest price. Also if you time the seasons right, you can even chase salmon in the same trip! Almost all trips will offer the chance to toss pots out as well for crab before you leave the bay and you pick them up on the way back.
    Last edited by Twise95; 02-18-2014 at 01:21 PM.
    Teddy Wise - Senior Moderator, NWFI

    OSU Class of 2013 - Go Beavs
    B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences
    Fisheries Technician with WDFW

    "The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope." ~ John Buchan

    Death is Certain - Fishing is Not

  4. #4


    Killer info. Can't wait to give it a shot at B-10 this yr.

  5. #5


    Remember those of us landbound unsea worthy anglers Here's my contribution. I have done really well on rock bass from the jettys in the spring. Start about 1 hr before dark and fish as long as you like into the dark. The buddy is for safety, watch each others back. Lifejacket not a bad idea either. Take a lantern, and a buddy, out on the jetty. No need to go far, and remember to respect the ocean. The lantern will draw in the baitfish which draws in the bass. I use a 7' or so, rod, with a blue/silver rapala (though I bet the color won't matter). I put a small wt about 2' above the rapala to keep the line low as I reel in. Cast in a half arc pattern to cover water, vary reel speed till you find what they will hit. I've gotten fish on every cast for hours on end doing this. They aren't huge fish, but eater size. I still have to figure lings from the jettys!!!

  6. #6


    Thanks for sharing.

    Like I said Alan, just let me know when you have an open seat :-)

  7. #7
    Shortbus Guest


    From the bank, are you looking for incoming, outgoing or slack tides? Big swings or small swings? When is the best time of year to go?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Pacific Northwest


    Wow Alan, very nice ! I so love rockfishing!!!!
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  9. #9


    From the top of high to outgoing. I like the flow out so its not bashing everything into the rocks. Spring for me, end of april, may, june. I also like less swings, that way I'm not chasing the water, or in danger of being too low and getting a high wave.

  10. #10


    I found now through April is the best time, the Lings and other rock fish are coming in to spawn


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