Rock Hotspots: Central Coast, NSW

Destinations: Central Coast, NSW

An array of headlands and rock platforms make the Central Coast a go-to location for keen rock hoppers. Local angler MARK WILLIAMS outlines the options available.

THE Central Coast of NSW is sandwiched between Sydney and Newcastle. Blessed with a stunning coastline of beaches interspersed with prominent headlands and points, the area has been a popular holiday destination for generations of fishos and their families. Over the years the Central Coast has been renowned for producing champion rock and beach anglers. Names such as Forster, Aston, Lund and Ridley are well known in competition angling circles for their successes in state and national championships. While those days of competitive rock fishing are now in decline, the area still provides an excellent range of rock fishing opportunities. Actually, when you take into account the area’s close proximity to major cities, and the population boom on the Central Coast itself, the consistently outstanding rock and beach fishing is pretty amazing.

Being locally born and bred from one of the area’s pioneering timber cutting families means I’ve spent my whole adult life fishing the rocky headlands of the NSW Central Coast for all the most popular recreational species. During that time I’ve either fished with or alongside many of the local champion comp anglers. Much of the knowledge I’ve accumulated through my lifetime of fishing the rocks has been gained through contact with these great fishos. I must admit to having mixed feelings about the decline of the comp fishing scene. On one hand it produced generations of elite rock and beach anglers. On the other hand, the massive numbers of fish these guys extracted in the pursuit of competitive glory were unsustainable. So I’m sure the local stocks of species such as rock blackfish have benefitted from the introduction of bag limits and the waning interest in competition rock fishing.

The following is a rundown of the best rock fishing options the NSW Central Coast has on offer. The wide variety of species that can be caught around these local rock ledges should satisfy any keen anglers intending to visit the area in the future.

Bread & Butter
Most if not all of the popular bread & butter species are available from Central Coast rock ledges stretching from Box Head in the south through to Catherine Hill Bay in the north. Good fish holding washes for those anglers looking to pursue bream, rock blackfish, luderick and groper are available from virtually every headland.

Renowned luderick fishing spots include Jacksons at Avoca, The Low Ledge and Square Hole at Terrigal, Soldiers Point and Bardi Point. However, it must be noted that luderick can be caught from the washes from most of the local headlands for those willing to give it a go. Cabbage and green weed are usually available at all the previously recommended locations, except after big seas or periods of exceptionally hot weather.

Rock blackfish, aka black drummer or pigs, have always been a popular target species, especially in the glory days of the competition scene back in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The more remote locations, such as Little Beach and Pelican Point, have provided good fishing for me in the past. Bateau Bay and Norah Head are also proven locations for those anglers who love battling pugnacious pigs. A bucket of stale bread berley and some peeled prawns or cunje for bait will ensure bent rods and torrid battles with these powerful brawlers.

Groper stocks in the region have improved immensely since the spear fishing ban back in 1969. Popular locations for anglers chasing “blue bulldozers” include Avoca, Crackneck Point, Wybung Head and Norah Head. My grandfather was an avid groper chaser and his favourite fishing spot was Bateau Bay. Calm seas and red crab baits are the way to go when chasing these powerful adversaries. Be sure to carefully release any fish not required. Many anglers nowadays elect to release all groper as they are such fantastic sportfish.

Bream are available from all headlands in the region. My favourite technique is to berley the washes with bonito or tuna frames then fish cut baits on light tackle. Many anglers prefer a more mobile approach and prospect the washes around headlands with peeled prawn baits. I really like to chase bream around headlands that are adjacent to beaches. Pelican Point, near Norah Head, is a gun location.

Jewfish are also a popular target for rock anglers on the NSW Central Coast. Box Head, Putty Beach and Gerrin Point are renowned locations for flood time spinning for jewfish with feather lures and wooden casting plugs. A Hawkesbury River flood will see local anglers rush to dig out their heavy spin rods and feather jigs. Until then local jew fishing fanatics will be spending long nights soaking live and dead baits from headlands such Avoca, Winnie Bay, Box Head, Wybung Head and Catherine Hill Bay.

Pelagic action
The Central Coast is renowned as the birthplace of high speed spinning. Anglers from Avoca were the first to realise that speed was the key to drawing strikes from the tuna and bonito schools found off the Avoca rock platform. Stories of anglers running backwards across the broad Avoca rock platform while retrieving lures as fast as their slow ratio multipliers reels would allow to draw strikes are part of local folklore.

When I first started fishing the local rock ledges in the early 1980s high speed spinning was far and away the preferred method of pursuing pelagics, with a core of keen live baiters who inhabited the Avoca and Winnie Bay rock platforms. Fishing styles have changed significantly in the ensuing years and while high speed spinning is still popular, bobby corking with pilchard baits has become increasingly common, especially on the rock ledges at Avoca, Wybung Head, Fraser Park and Catherine Hill Bay. Pelagic species most commonly targeted on the Central Coast rock ledges include salmon, tailor, bonito, frigates, kingfish and mack tuna. During good seasons occasional catches of other pelagics such as cobia, striped tuna and longtail tuna occur.

For those anglers who like throwing lures from the rocks the preferred rock ledges on the Central Coast include Avoca, Terrigal Skillion, Wybung Head, Catherine Hill Bay and Little Beach. The best high speed spinning action usually occurs during February, March and April, although tailor and salmon can be targeted all year round. During the warmer months of the year good fishing for frigate mackerel can be had with lure and fly tackle from the point at Terrigal Haven.

The best ledges for livebaiting include Avoca, Little Beach, Fraser Park and Catherine Hill Bay. Kingfish and jewfish are the prime live bait target species on the local LBG ledges, although longtail, cobia, yellowfin and even small black marlin are caught occasionally when good water conditions occur in prime season.

Be warned that extreme care needs to be taken when fishing many of these deep water ledges as drowning fatalities have occurred in recent years. Local ANSA clubs have installed Angel Ring life buoys at many of the most hazardous locations, but no fish is worth risking your life for. Noted danger spots include Fraser Park, Avoca and Winnie Bay.

While locations further north and to the south provide better rock fishing options for the glamour LBG species, you’d be hard pressed to find an area that has better general rock fishing for all the popular recreational species than the Central Coast. The area’s close proximity to Sydney makes it an ideal location for day tripping or a weekend away from the big smoke. Various accommodation options are available from camping grounds through to the finest hotels.

Even after 30 years of fishing the rock ledges of the NSW Central Coast, I find they still produce consistently good fishing for all the bread & butter species and smaller pelagics. Even though the majority of the headlands in the area are easily accessed you can often walk onto a rock platform and have the place to yourself. If you’re a keen rock hopper the area is definitely worth a visit. 


Central Coast Rock Species Guide

Tailor & Australian salmon – metal lures, surface poppers, pilchards, garfish. Available year round, winter prime months.

Yellowtail kingfish – live bait, garfish, metal lures, surface poppers, soft plastics. Prime months, January to May.

Luderick – green weed, cabbage. Available year round.

Rock blackfish – cunjevoi, peeled prawns, bread. Available year round. Winter prime months.

Bream – tuna, prawns, crabs, garfish. Available year round.

Mulloway – live bait, slab bait, feather jigs, bibbed minnows, soft plastics. Prime months, December to May.

Bonito & tuna – metal jigs, live baits, pilchards. Prime months, January to May.

Groper – red crabs, cunjevoi. Available year round.

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