Fishing for rock blackfish

You can tell when an angler hooks a decent rock blackfish. Their rod bends double and they begin a strange sort of dance routine on the ocean rocks – there’s a little bit of tap, lots of leg bending, a few side shuffles and a touch of arm twirling. One thing’s for sure, all of the panic is occurring on their end of the line.

The rock blackfish, also known as a black drummer, is a meaty fish with a thick tail and a bad attitude. In the winter months I tangle with the species. I walk onto the ocean rocks feeling like an amateur boxer turning up to a prize fight with a heavyweight. My track record of landing rock blackfish in the two kilo-plus weight class is abysmal. Maybe that’s what keeps me coming back.

My latest outing was under blue skies with a gentle, fishable swell and just enough white water to keep the drummer interested. Over the years I’ve learned that a bread berley thrown into the gutter you’re fishing can turn an average fishing session into a memorable one. Just be sure to soak the bread so it sinks before the seagulls find it.

I use two rock blackfish rigs. The first rig is a ball sinker running down on to a 1/0 or 2/0 double strength hook. I started with this option, using peeled prawns for bait, and managed to land a reasonable fish.

It can be tough on the tackle though with a lot of snags amongst the rocks. So I changed to my second rig – a float to keep the bait of the bottom. With a gentle sea this approach worked well and allowed me to cover more water until I found the fish.

And did I find them!

What followed was four solid hook-ups, crazy dance routines and heart-breaking bust-offs. Not much good for my win-loss record, but the most excitement I’ve had fishing this year. They might have been large black drummer, or their hard-hitting cousins the silver drummer. Maybe they were groper, the toughest of them all.

In the end I landed a black drummer which I kept for the table, as well as an Australian salmon and a small groper, both returned after a quick pic.

I left the rocks knowing I’d lost the fight but had managed to land a few in the early rounds. That’s good enough for me.

At the time of writing the legal length for rock blackfish (black drummer) is 30cm with a bag limit of 10. Visit the Department of Primary Industries for the latest saltwater bag and size limits here.

3 thoughts on “Fishing for rock blackfish

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  1. Great fun by the sound of it! I remember going after them at Munmorah one winter and nearly being pulled off my feet by freight train hook ups! (virtually locked drag!)


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