Rockfish are caught in the Pacific ocean and are found in large numbers from southern California to northern Alaska.
Personally, I have fished for rockfish in Alaska on bottom fishing trips when running charter boats. There are 130 different species of rockfish.
In Alaska, they are lumped into two categories, pelagic and non-pelagic rockfish. Common Pelagic rockfish are dusky rockfish and black rockfish.
Pelagic rockfish are often caught in water ranging from 40-200 feet deep and swim in large schools around rock-piles and reef structures.
Non-pelagic rockfish are typically found in deep water from 100-600 feet deep near bottom structure. These fish are less common and include the quillback rockfish and yelloweye rockfish. Most pelagic rockfish that are caught are 7-30 years old compared to non-pelagic rockfish that are typically 15-75 years old but can live to be over 150 years old.
Rockfish are relatively easy to target and are a great eating fish. It is important to locate rock fish with a fish finder before dropping baits. This is especially true when anchoring in one spot. If you are drifting you can locate fish while you drift. Depending on the current rockfish will move around rock piles and humps. Fish can be piled up on the hump, down-current, up current or on a certain depth on a ledge. It is important to move around initially and find the fish! In strong currents 1-2 pounds of weight is needed to get the bait near the bottom where the fish are typically located. This can make feeling the bite and setting the hook difficult. Using small circle hooks and less weight when possible makes fishing for rockfish easier and more fun, especially when fishing with kids! There are specific limits for each type of rockfish so be prepared to fish shallower water once a limit is reacted to ensure that the released fish survive.
Here Are the Best Rockfish Fishing Lures, Baits, and Rigs
1. Multi Hook Rigs
Rockfish typically eat herring, sand lace, other rockfish and crustaceans. Cut herring is a great bait to use for all types of rockfish. If the baitfish in the area are sardines, anchovy or smelt that would be a good option as well. Cut the bait into one or two inch pieces and put a chunk on each hook. If you are targeting bigger fish put the whole baitfish on the hook. Rockfish typically bite as soon as the bait is on the bottom. So be ready to set the hook and check the bait after you get a bite, especially if you do not get a bite for a while.
If you are not good a making rigs buying a deep drop rig is a great way to catch rockfish. Just put cut hearing on the hooks and the attach the large weight to the snap swivel and you are ready to fish.
Listed below are tackle need to make custom multi hook deep drop rigs. Typically I just use two hooks for rockfish.
A circle hook works good because it is hard to feel the bite of small rockfish and properly set the hook because of the large weights typically needed. With circle hooks the fisherman does not need to set the hook. Size 5/0 is good for small rockfish and 8/0 is good for large rockfish.
80 pound seguar leader line for the leader material.
Typically we use 6 ounce to 16 ounce weights in low current and 2 pounds weights in high current.
A 310 pound test crane swivels is a great way to attach the rig to the line of the fishing pole.
Jigs are good to have in the water because the jigging motion attracts fish and keeps them hanging around the other lines as well. These jigs are bit large of small rockfish but defiantly catch large fish. Adding a teaser hook above the jigs with a piece of cut bait or gulp tail works great to catch any-size rockfish. If you do not need two pounds of weight to fight the current this would be by my number one rockfish rig.
Picture of flounder caught on the teaser hook above the jig. For rockfish a cut piece of hearing would be put on the teaser hook about two feet above a heavy jig.
A 10 ounce jig heads with curry tail.
A 8 inch curly tail jig grub, white or glow work great.
Mega bite 9 ounce 14 inch swim tail jigs.
A size 4/0 J hook is good to use as the teaser hook above the jig. A dropper loop is put in the leader about two feet above the jig. The dropper loop is put through the eye of the hook then around the back side of the hook and pulled tight to place the hook on the loop. 50-100 pound fluorocarbon leader line should be used.
3. Heavy Weight with Hoochie
Hoochie skirts, 4 3/4 inch is the size typically used.
This rig is typically used with one or two pounds weights and works good in strong currents.
Siwash open eye hooks eye fishing hook, size 4/0 is what is typically used on hoochie rigs for salmon. The open eye lets you attached to hook to barrel swivels. The hook eye is easily closed with a pair of pliers.
Two to four bead should be use to space to hoochie in front of the the hook.
Size 2# 88 pound cork screw swivels can be used to attach the rig and weight.
4. Gibbs Delta Jig
Gibbs Delta 8 ounce jig with a white or glow tail. The glow tail work great with fishing deep and is known for catching trophy rockfish.
5. Slider Rig
A slider rig is great when anchored and fishing for rockfish. This allow the fisherman to let out extra line once the sinker reaches the bottom. This allows the current to naturally take the bait near the bottom and sent trail of other baits. This is more of a surf fishing setup but is a good setup for rockfish as well.
Slider with clip for the weight.
Lead pyramid sinker, 8, 16 and 24 ounce options.
A 310 pound AFW mighty crane swivels. this is tied on once the slider is place on the fishing pole line. Then the leader line with the hook is tied to the other side.
Gamakatsu open eye fishing hook.
Types of Rockfish
Yelloweye rockfish are not a common type of rockfish to catch and get up to 3 feet long which is about 40 pounds. Female yelloweye rockfish have over two million egges and give live birth. This fish is sometimes called an Pacific red snapper.
Quillback rockfish are common non-pelagic rockfish to catch and get up to 2 feet long. It has shark venomous quills on its dorsal fin and also gives live birth.
Dusky rockfish are a very common fish to catch and get up to 20 inches long which is about 10 pounds. Female dusky rockfish have over 100,000 eggs and give live birth.
Rockfish have a swim bladder that does not vent. When reeling fish up from depth the swim bladder expands and the pressure change can even make the eyes of the fish pop out. In very deep water the fish is going to die from the trauma of the pressure change. When fishing in less that about 120 feet of water and the fish is reeled in slowly it can usually be released with a vent tool or using a fish descender.
Fish descender. It works by attaching the fish to the clip, adding a weight and tying the other end to a fishing pole. The fish is sent back to depth and when the line is pulled up on the fish releases. This is the best way to release fish that are caught in deep water.
Fish vent tool or needle. This works by placing the needle under a scale of the fish to release or vent the air from the swim bladder. The fish should then be able to swim back to depth.
Thanks for visiting Global Fishing Reports. I hope these suggestions help you catch more rockfish!
If you have any suggestions for top rockfish lures and baits, leave a comment below!
Captain Cody has worked on charter fishing boats in the Florida Keys, Virgin Islands and Alaska. Cody grew up in Pennsylvania and has also done extensive freshwater fishing including bass fishing tournaments. Cody strives to provide detailed information about the best fishing gear and tactics to help both novice and experienced anglers have a more productive and enjoyable time on the water. Cody also has a background in aerospace engineering and neuroscience but really only takes pride in being good at one thing and that is fishing!