The California coastline holds an abundance of rockfish species. Lingcod, Cabezon, Blues, Blacks, Vermillion, and Brown Rockfish are only a few of the hard fighting, tasty species you can limit out on. I’ve experimented with a handful of different rockfish setups, line size, lures, weights, you name it! Some work, others are more specific, more specialized. But I’ve narrowed it down to a solid three rockfish rigs that’ll produce bites and generally cover the whole spectrum of species. But first, let me give you an idea of where to find these spiny bottom fish.
Where To Find Rockfish
From shore, rockfish can be caught along rocky outcrops or shorelines. When you find a good, deep area, assure that you have a stable place to fish from. Get your feet secure and watch for damp rocks with moss or kelp. Rocks like these are slick and can lead to a quick end to your day.
From a boat, you can identify rocky bottoms with a fish finder, and it’s pretty easy, as sand is flat and anything else is likely hard structure. When you see suspended fish above the structure, these are likely blue and black rockfish, which are the first to bite as your lower your bait through the school.
1.) Rockfish Rigs: Farallon Feather Rigs
It doesn’t get much easier than a feather rig! The Farallon Feather rig consists of a long leader line with a snap swivel and two feathered hooks. These setups are used on charter boats, and anglers will grab for these rigs first when testing the water to determine what’s down there. This rockfish rig is most effective when jigged vertically as it covers water up and down and indicates if schools are present.
For an added scent and flavor, I like to add strips of squid to the hooks and fashion them so that they slightly extend past the end of the feather. This provides a tasty trailer and works well as a multi-species bait – Cabezon and Lingcod like them too! It’s also possible to drop a feather rig with no bait at all. Rockfish will commonly bite even a naked hook.
2.) Rockfish Rigs: Drop Shot Rig
The drop-shot rig has proven itself as an effective rig. The benefit of the drop shot is that it keeps your bait up and off the bottom. It also provides a more visible target for fish and allows you to save your lure when hung up. With a drop shot, you can slow roll a swimbait or tie on a #4 Gamakatsu octopus hook and use chunks of squid, anchovies, or blood worms and slow retrieve. This method is especially effective when fishing over areas with patches of sand. These locations are known to hold halibut and sanddabs and with a white or chartreuse swimbait, you’ll entice a bite.
3.) Rockfish Rigs: Pline Twin-Tail Squid
The twin-tail squid is a rockfish rig that I use when the bite is hot. If the feather rig has gotten bit, then I’ll drop something on the larger side to isolate larger fish, and even entice predatory fish like lingcod and cabezon into the picture. The Twin-Tail Squid can be fished much like a feather rig over structure or cast out and left still.
As a bait, I like to tip these lures with squid or shrimp for added scent. When the bite is happening, these lures are perfect for calling out those big boys. However, keep in mind that a rig like this is specifically for larger fish like lingcod and behemoth rockfish, so don’t expect a bite right away!