Rottnest Island has been described as WA’s biggest fish aggregating device, writes Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan in the latest edition of Scott’s Spots, with plenty of fish — from bread-and-butter species to big demersals or pelagics — abound in the waters surrounding the popular holiday spot off Perth.
Rotto, as most people call it, has long been a favoured holiday destination for West Australians – particularly those in the metro area looking for an affordable and easy “overseas” break.
These days it’s known on the global stage for its quokka selfies, but anyone who likes fishing knows there much more to Rotto than its friendly rodents.
Whether it’s shore or boat fishing Rotto has much to offer. It boasts a wide range of bread-and-butter species as well as sought-after demersals.
Shore fishing at Rottnest is great fun and well within the reach of families holidaying there, or even just there for a day.
The main jetty where the ferry arrives can produce herring and is also a great spot for squid at night. The squid are attracted to the lights and can be caught in good numbers.
When I was a kid we used to stay at Rotto every year. I would walk to Bathurst Point and have a great time catching herring and skippy along with the odd King George whiting.
A baited squid jig set out under a float late in the day usually produced a squid or two, and if I got bored I could try to stop one of the big buff bream hanging around.
Berley was the key to my success when shore fishing there and nothing has changed.
A good berley trail will often see the water bubbling with herring, and the other species will follow.
When I just wanted to catch herring, I would use a berley blob and whitebait.
If I wanted to change it up, I would switch to a berley cage to get my bait down deeper, and that’s when skippy, silver bream and King George whiting came into play.
Some surprisingly big KGs can be found in the shallow Rottnest bays.
If you want to visit some of the other locations at Rotto, then the simple solution is to jump on a bike and pedal to one of the many iconic spots around the island.
A quick look at a map of Rotto will reveal spots which are well-known to many fishos with names like Ricey Beach, Cathedral Rocks, Radar Reef, Salmon Bay, Parker Point and Little Armstrong Bay.
All of these offer variations on the fishing mentioned earlier and some can be fished from dry land, while others will require the angler to wade out onto the reef to enjoy success in the adjacent holes.
During their annual run, salmon can be caught around West End at several locations, and in years gone by Rotto has been the spot for metro salmon.
Radar Reef is renowned for producing salmon and also yellowtail kingfish for reef anglers, while good tailor are regularly caught in the reef washes around the western end of the island.
Parker Point is great for producing some surprising captures for those prepared to get their feet wet.
Those who know their reef holes will catch all the aforementioned species, plus some nice mulloway, particularly on the south side of the island.
Herring will turn up in all the bays, and again squid are a regular capture. There was even a good dhufish caught from the shore on a lure at West End a couple of years ago.
For boat fishers, the action starts right in around the island. The bays are full of squid and herring for small boat anglers, and KGs can be caught there also around Phillip Rock.
Around West End, kingies are a great option and respond well to berley, as do skippy and the odd Samson fish.
Big schools of salmon can be found at times and can turn up anywhere, including right in the shallow bays, while when the weather is warm there is the chance of trolling up a shark mackerel or Spanish mackerel around West End and along the south side of the island.
Every year some good mackies are caught near Rotto, while there’s also plenty of crays crawling around the Rotto reefs.
As you head into the deeper water around Rottnest, the bottom fishing options really open up.
Pink snapper and dhufish are regular captures around Rottnest, while the nearby barges are famed for their ability to hold massive schools of Samson fish.
This was a very popular fishery and attracted anglers from across the world to chase fish that went more than 50kg at times, but it has tapered off in recent years due to an explosion in shark numbers. Other regular captures offshore from Rotto include queen snapper, red snapper and different tuna varieties.
Those heading out to the Recfishwest metro FADs or Perth Game Fishing Club FADs in the warmer months can expect to tangle with dolphinfish, and maybe even the odd wahoo, while marlin can be found in the Rottnest Trench.
There’s also the Recfishwest fish towers, which usually hold yellowtail kingfish, samson fish and skippy.
One of the great things about fishing around Rottnest is that it really does have something for everyone. Young or old, boat or shore, looking for sport or a feed, Rotto can deliver.