Updated: Jun 25, 2020
Can't figure out why you're not catching when you take a morning or afternoon trip to your local rocks? I've put a lot of time into my local beach scene and there's always one constant when I'm passing from rock pile to rock pile. That constant is a novice angler who is casting out a lone squid strip into no mans land hoping for a bite. If they're lucky, they might catch a lost summer flounder, but for the most part that's a skate and dog shark recipe right there. Please, if you are someone who is putting the time in on the jetty and beaches this summer and not getting results, listen in! In this article I will break down the standard zones you should be fishing off the rocks and what bait and tackle produces action in these areas. We'll cover the process of catching jetty fluke, striped bass, kingfish, tog and more like a seasoned angler. If you enjoy these articles, please subscribe to our email list at the bottom of the page to ensure you don't miss out on new posts!
To begin, understanding the roles of these rock structures will help in your approach to fishing them. These hard structures are commonly referred to as groins if they are mid-island or jetties if they outline an inlet. In the graphic above, you will notice one side will hold more sand than the other creating a dip or drop off on one side, the right side in this case, as these rocks are used to prevent beach erosion from shoreline currents. To the anglers advantage, this creates a unique ecosystem that holds plenty of species to target.
Zone 1: Striped Bass and Fluke
It's a common misconception that the fish around these structures are way out and that casting as far as possible gives you the best chance of hooking up. I am here to say that this is simply just not the case and quite often they are right at your feet! Stripers and fluke use the contour of the beach and rocks to ambush prey that are caught in the currents of outflowing water directly along the jetty. This is indicated in the graphic by the red zone and where I catch about 90% of these species when I target them. I've found that in this setting, the bass tend to be dialed in on smaller baits and 4in-5in soft plastics and topwater lures are perfect to throw up alongside the rocks. I will use a tactical anglers clip on a 20-30 lb fluorocarbon leader to quickly switch between primarily a small swimbait and top water, walk-the-dog type lure.
On the left are the poppers that I find work best for bass in the summer months in the Northeast. Between a small surface popper and walk the dog style type lure, you will certainly entice a top water bite if any fish are cooperating. The right are my bread and butter swimbait lures that I catch a majority of my fish on from the rocks. Both fluke and stripers love the low profile 4-5in Zman and Zoom fluke soft plastics fished on a 1/4oz-1/2oz jig head. Comment below with your all around go to lure!
For targeting fluke, I will use a high-low bucktail/jig head rig that I cover how to tie up and fish in my land based fluke/flounder fishing article that can be found by clicking here. The cuts along the rocks in the red zone pictured above are formed from the outflowing currents along the jetty from incoming waves. Working 4 in and 5 in Gulp! swimming mullet and grub baits in this cut is extremely effective for catching some quality fish from the rocks and sand.
It is typical to find stripers of all sizes throughout the summer months stalking your local jetty! A light tackle setup is ideal for this style of fishing. And before you make fun, I do consider myself a small fish specialist which fully allows that picture on the left to make this article.
Pro Tip: I know it seems crazy, but these bass and flounder can be in super shallow water when hunting along jetties and groins. One of my best hookups was the result of casting from the top of a small jetty onto dry sand, by accident, and when I reeled the small paddletail into the water it was almost instantly smashed in a foot of water by a hungry striper. Also, flounder are notorious for following baits right to your feet in the surf, always give the end of your retrieve some keen focus for a late bite and short fight!
Zone 2: Kingfish, Blues, Spot, Striped Bass, Sand Perch, Etc.
This type of fishing is perfect for the people who just like to bait and wait, but on a hot beach bite there really won't be too much waiting! When fishing from the surf, I find the hi-low pill float kingfish/virginia mullet rig tipped with bloodworms or the artificial fishbites is perfect for targeting a large variety of species. If you look in the graphic above, zone 2 is right in and behind the wash from the breaking waves. There is no need to try and cast out as far as possible as these fish feed from the small crabs, fish, and other prey that is caught in the eddies formed by the breaking waves. This simple surf rig set up has caught anything from small pufferfish and kingfish up to legal sized striped bass. Remember, you can't catch a small fish on a big hook, but you can catch a big fish on a small hook!
Fishbites is a great alternative to live bloodworms and are very effective once the water warms up for catching a variety of different fish off the beach. Use by cutting into inch sized pieces and hooking through the strip two times. Pre tied, pill float rigs can be purchased at your local tackle shop, just clip on a 2-3oz weight and cast out on a light tackle surf rod setup.
Zone 3: Tog/Blackfish, Triggerfish, Sheepshead
What is often overlooked on these groins and jetties in the mid to late summer is the hard mouthed, mussel crushing species that inhabit inshore waters with the warm water. The perfect place to score some of these tasty fish is Zone 3 in the graphic located at the end of the rocks. In this case, the deepest part of the jetty is ideal for this style of fishing as it provides the most surface area for these fish to feed on the mussels and crabs that live there. Utilizing small pieces of fresh green crab on a small tog/blackfish jig like a bottomsweeper or single hook rig with 2-3 ounces of weight will typically provide lots of action targeting these fish.
Pro Tip: When fishing these rigs off the rocks, you do not want to cast out, but rather drop straight down in a hole or cutout where you'll be able to pull a fish out of.
You can see exactly how I tie the single dropper loop rig on the right in my blackfish/tog party boat fishing article here.
As with any jetty, the end will typically be slippery with algae and it is highly advised to utilize a type of corker shoe/boot that will allow you to have some grip while fishing. It's best to utilize a flat and calm day when trying this type of fishing to avoid any sticky situations with sets of waves sneaking up on you.
Catch em' Up!
If you read this far, thanks for the support! I hope you now have a different perspective of the types of fishing and different species you can target this summer off of your local rockpile or jetty. Utilizing this information to read the cuts, ditches, and outflow currents of these structures will definitely give you an advantage to landing some quality fish. I primarily wrote this article as I see time after time guys putting in the effort to get out early in the morning or late in the afternoon and simply just not fishing in an effective manner. If you got something out of this article or have any questions, please feel free to subscribe to the email list or leave a comment below. Thanks again for reading and tight lines!