How to Catch Whiting
Fishing for Whiting
Anyone who has ever done some quality fishing would probably agree that it is a truly loveable sport. The group of avid anglers grows every day, and it is not limited to just the guys, but also the gals and even whole families. In Australia, it is becoming the favourite pastime for leisure and recreation.
Beginning fishermen are apt to start with the whiting fish or maybe the flathead. One reason for so many people start with whiting is this that you don’t need expensive gear or bait to start or even a boat. Wherever you find a river, an estuary, flowing saltwater or a sandbank, it’s a good place to try your hand at some whiting fishing.
How Big Can Whiting Get?
The summer whiting generally ranges from 200 to 300 grams, but can occasionally get up to 900 grams. You would have to have a pretty large stringer of them to feed the whole family, but there are plenty of them to be caught. The winter whiting is smaller and it would take about 10 times or more as many of them to make a good fish feast. They are worth the effort though because they are quite tasty, being very succulent and a bit sweet. It’s not hard to catch more of these because you can easily catch them by the hundreds when they are around. Of course, having the right baits and being in the right spot helps.
Where to Find Whiting Fish
Going by the names of Yellowfin whiting, King George whiting, spotted whiting and sand whiting, they are partial to warm water and love the tropical and subtropical areas of Australia. They can be found from Victoria to Cape York. During the summer, they will enter the estuaries after the chilly water from the winter warms up. After making their way along the beaches, they will go to spawn and hang out inside the ocean bars of the estuaries. You can get an early jump on them by doing some surf fishing when things are beginning to warm up. The winter whiting is more apt to be found in the open bays along the Australian coastline during the cool months.
Fishing for Whiting in the Surf
If you want to get started on catching some whiting, check out the surf gutters. Quite often you can catch the whiting on a beach just a short cast out from the shore. This is because they will enter a gutter running along the shoreline that fills with water whenever the tide rises. Those tides bring in goodies for the whiting to eat, like beach worms and pipis that bury themselves in the sand.
When the tide moves out, it leaves the heads and shells of these irresistible baits exposed, and the whiting comes into the very shallow water to dine. You can fish with one of these naturally occurring baits and are sure to get yourself a catch.
TIP: Again, you don’t have to cast out more than 20 or 30 feet – if you do you might cast right past the whiting.
Working the Tides
To get the best results, fish the tides when the water is running fast. You’ll catch more fish as the tide picks up, and accordingly, the bite will slow down as the flow of water does. The bigger the tides the better, so check your lunar calendar.
This happens because, without much water movement, there is also very little movement from bait on the bottom, but if the water is moving faster, everything gets stirred up and it makes it easier for the whiting to find the bait. This works both day and night, for both incoming and outgoing tides. You can probably find a tide guidebook for the area you plan on fishing to help you get locked in on this.
Where to Fish for Whiting along the Shores
There are a lot of canals to be found near the shores that can hold a lot of whiting, both large and small. The banks of these canals hold large populations of natural forage for the fish, such as soldier crabs and yabbies. You can use these as fresh baits, or if you prefer you can find them fresh at a nearby bait shop. Live worms and peeled prawns will also do well in the canals.
If you are fishing at night and don’t have a boat, try fishing from a low bridge over a narrow, shallow channel which divides two sections of land. To get from one place to another, the whiting will have to move through these channels and it gives you a great opportunity to take advantage of this. The night is recommended because it keeps the fish from seeing you on the bridge (if you can see them, they can usually see you).
How to Catch Whiting from a Boat
Obviously, if you do have a boat this will give you many more choices as to where you can fish. To fish at the bottom of the tide, locate a sandbank that has the baits the whiting like (again, the yabbies or soldier crabs). Set anchor in the shallowest water you can get your boat into with your boat against the bank.
Rigged with one of the baits natural to the area, cast out as far as you can into the very shallow water along the sandbank. When the tide starts moving in and starts stirring up the water, you can expect the whiting to start feeding around the bank’s edge
As the tide continues to rise, keep moving your boat close to the sand and keep casting into and fishing the shallow water. You can catch big fish in very shallow water, so don’t think you’re missing anything by doing this. Just move slowly as you go and stay quiet.
When the tide starts to die down and the water starts to move off the bank the fish will go back into the deeper channel next to the sandbank. They are hoping to get any forage brought to them by the falling tide, so that is the time to anchor up and catch the fish on the receding tide.
Baits to Use for Whiting
Your best bet with most any kind of fishing is to use baits that resemble the forage in the area. For instance, if you are fishing the mud flats and the bait that you’re seeing on them is bloodworms, you’re not going to have much luck by casting out soldier crabs or beach worms. Stick to the natural forage and don’t use crabs where worms are the natural bait and don’t use worms where yabbies are the natural bait.
Again, this is a good rule of thumb for any kind of fishing anywhere, but there are always those exceptions. Presenting natural baits in a natural way will generally be the best bet, but don’t be afraid to experiment. For example, a peeled prawn is not natural bait, but is great for fishing, as is chicken gut and many other types of bait, so experiment.
If you are wanting the hottest bait for catching whiting as well as most other types of fish in the surf or estuary, you can’t go past the sandworm. Sandworms can be purchased from the fishing stores and need to be stored cool and moist. If you have the time, you can easily catch your own at the local surf beach. here is a good article on how to catch sandworms.
Light line the trick to catching a feed of whiting
These are the top tricks you need to catch these delicious but fussy feeding Australian table fish:
- Your line should be as light as possible. Whiting usually caught in sandy snag free areas so you can comfortably use one or two-kilo mainline and leaders.
- If you need a sinker for a bait rig, make it as small as is practical for the prevailing water movement and depth.
- Bait fishers should employ small long-shank hooks and use several rods for each angler, cast out in a fan pattern, to increase your water coverage.
- Rig each rod with different bait until you see what is most popular on the day. Use fresh yabbies or bloodworms – it’s fun to catch them and more effective than frozen bait.
- Focus on sand flats close to where you find your bait and keep changing your location if you don’t get a bite within 20 minutes.
- Once you find a school, try casting small poppers around for bigger whiting – you might even find a flathead by accident
Whiting Fishing Tackle
There is a wide range of gear you can use for whiting fishing. Some are extraordinarily simple and inexpensive, and some are very fancy high dollar equipment. Some people simply use jugs with a hand line attached and some used gear that is to the point of overkill for what you need. Whiting are a blast to catch on light gear and they will give you a good fight, so keep that in mind when choosing a rod and reel.
One thing you need to know about whiting is that they a very curious fish and are known to follow and check out lures and baits as they are being reeled in. They seem to take an interest in most anything that moves around them so you will want to set your rig up accordingly.
You should use a small swivel with a light sinker above it and have a leader of about 60 centimetres tied from the swivel to the hook. Put a red plastic tube or a red plastic bead on the leader (or trace) above the hook. This will help to get the fishes attention and cause them to come over to the bait for a closer look. If it gets that close, it’s likely to take the bait.
You will want to be sure that you are always using the sharpest hooks that you can. You can get you an inexpensive hook sharpener from a bait shop or online, or you can use a sharpening stone. Chemically treated hooks are usually already very sharp, but others sometimes need a touch-up. Take a moment to do this now and then and you will catch a lot more fish than you would with a dull hook.
Queensland’s Whiting Hot Spots
- Munna Point
- Jacobs Well
- Gold coast (beach next to SeaWorld)
- Hervey Bay
NSW Whiting Hot Spots
- Byron Bay
- Coffs Harbor
- Narrabeen lakes
Victoria’s Whiting Hot Spots
Port Philip Bay
- Mount Martha
- Queenscliff (grass beds)
- Point Cook
- Portsea Pier
- Mornington Pier
- Kerferd Rd Pier
- Sorrento Pier
- Swan Island
- St Leonards
- North Shore
- St Leonards
- Black Rock
Western Port Bay
- Joe’s Island, Westernport
- Tortoise Head
- Scrub Point (Westernport bay)
- Apollo Bay
- Portland Marina
- Cape Patterson
- Philip Island (rocks)
- Andersons Inlet
- Shallow Inlet
- The rocks at Harmers Haven
- Lakes Entrance
South Australia’s Whiting Hot Spots
- Flinders Island
- Carpenter rocks
- Corny Point
- Spencer Gulf
- Moonta ba
- Pt Vincent
Western Australia’s Whiting Hot Spots
- Rottnest Island
- Spencer Gulf
- South Beach Fremantle
- Warnbro Sound
- Long Point
- Parmelia Bank
- Cockburn Sound
- Bremer Bay
- North Mole in Fremantle
- White Hills beach
King George (spotted) Whiting
Many Australians regard the King George whiting as the finest eating among Australian fish, partly because the bones are less troublesome than in the smaller fish. Victorians consume big quantities brought from South Australia. In Western Australia, the King George whiting is a noted sportfish, particularly among holidaymakers on the south coast at such places as Oyster Harbour, Irwin Inlet and Wilson Inlet.
King George whiting usually require one to four hooks, depending on the size available. They bite best from November to February and the most successful baits are squid, cockles and pipi. Like all whiting, they are selective in their feeding and the range of baits to which they respond is limited. Sand shrimps and pink nippers, taken from the estuary flats with yabby pumps, are soft bait but the whiting relishes them. Peeled prawns are used only when the fish are biting well.
Sand whiting has been known to grow to 50cm and 1kg but most of those caught range from 400-600g and a fish of >900g is rated large. They are olive-green along the back, merging to silver-green, silver and then white below. The lower fins show strong tones of yellow and the dorsal fins are dotted with small dark spots. They live mainly on the sand flats and along the shallow channels in the estuaries, on shallow ocean sandbars and in the surf along the ocean beaches. They often bury themselves.
They spend a lot of time fossicking in the sand for small shellfish and crustaceans, which they break up in the crushers at the back of their palates. They are mainly taken on worms. Probably the best bait for them is the little hard-nipping wriggler worms found under logs and stones along the water’s edge in quiet backwaters. Next, best is the big sand worms taken out of the beaches along the edge of the surf. Bloodworms dug from the mudflats in the estuaries are also very good. Squirt worms, ejected out of their tunnels in the estuary sand-flats by the pressure of an upturned fruit tin, also do well, as do poddy worms dug from under rotting weed on some of the backwater beaches. Earthworms are poor bait for whiting. A lot of fishing is done for sand whiting with cockles and pipis. Pipis are soft but take a lot of sand whiting in the surf. At times a few can be caught on off-beat bait such as mullet gut, octopus, garfish or bonito, but this is not customary.
Because it bites so freely and is easily caught, the sand whiting provides more enjoyment in the summer months for once-a-year holiday anglers than any other Australian fish. Inexperienced anglers usually can catch a few. Those who use two or three hooks on their line frequently land fish on each hook. They bite freely by day or night and when they are hungry, at any state of the tide — but generally an early flood tide is best, as this keeps the fish swimming towards the shore in search of food.
To secure most fun fishing for sand whiting should be done on very light tackle with small hooks, say, sizes No. 3 to 5. A sinker about the size of a small pea is adequate about two feet above the hook and the running type are preferred. Only in reasonably strong surf should the breaking strain of the line used with rod or hand be increased beyond 3kg. Sand whiting is seldom caught in water beyond 4m in depth.