How to Catch Whiting - Fishing
Most whiting species are a year round target for a lot of anglers, however, they do have peak periods where they can be found in denser numbers around Australia. For example, in Victoria’s bays, throughout November up until March is best. Anglers who target snapper through October through to December, quickly change their focus from snapper to whiting when the time is right. (Usually after Christmas) At the moment the SA peak is coming to a close according to some anglers. Some of us may disagree to what time of year is best to chase whiting, however, it should be said that they are a great fish to target all year round, regardless of season.
The first step in the hunt for whiting is obviously to locate them. Whiting can be pretty easy to find, although, they do travel around a fair bit, but once you get them on the bite, it can be easy bag out.
No matter if you’re fishing in Port Phillip Bay, Streaky Bay, Port Augusta, Jervis Bay, Noosa River, or Rottnest Island, all whiting species dwell in the common type of environment or ground, essentially wherever is sandy and has fertile weed beds.
As a general tip you will find whiting in greater numbers in the shallows, rather than the deeper water. About 2-5 meters is idealistic. However, if you are fishing in an area that has strong tidal movement then an alternative tactic maybe in order. Based on the amount of movement of water, this factor will tend to dictate the sort of rig best suited for the job. Another tip here is to ensure that you are set up for both shallow, deep, slack and fast running water. If you are fishing shallow mud flats or deep channels, whiting can still be found in abundance.
Whiting are for the most part are a small fish, however, this does not impact their fighting abilities. Hence why anglers love to target them, and not to mention their great eating quality as well. The average weight of a whiting is around 500g, (again dependent upon the area you are fishing) so setting those hooks on that first strike will govern whether or not you will catch it, this is why it is of the utmost important tip that you fish with the right hooks. The right size rod will also help you in your quest to stick those fish. As a general observation, if your opening fish spits the hook in the first couple of seconds of the combat, it will most likely swim back to the school, this often results in spooking the other fish. From experience if this happens, you are better off pulling up your anchor and moving around until you either relocate the same school of fish or another school.
Rod selection is important, largely because you need a rod that can handle the short sharp runs without the stress being on the rig and hook, so you need your rod to take the load for you.
If fishing the flats for whiting in shallow water 2-5 meters try using 1-2oz of lead to ensure you stay connected to the bottom. However if you are fishing in the deeper water such as 15-18m of water try using 6-8oz of lead to hold bottom. It pays off to have two distinct setups, one for the shallow and one for the deep for the reason that a lighter rod which might be more suitable for fishing shallow will not be ideal to support a heavier sinker needed for deep water fishing. This can also apply when fishing fast flowing water. Having two rod setups during slack water and fast flowing water can pay off. Try to make as many rigs as you can at home prior to hitting the water, this will save you time, especially if you are on a hot bit and get tangled up on multiple hook ups and loose a few lines. A quick change over of rigs will mean less rods are needed in your quiver.
If you don’t want to have two rod setups, then trying to combine one outfit which will suit both situations can be a difficult task. If I have to go down to one rod it’s going to be the Ugly Stik Gold Whiting Rod USG-SP602XL 1-3kg, this allows anglers to fish sinkers on the lighter side, when hitting the shallows but also can manage heavier sinkers in the deep. This will allow the angler to get away with one rod for both situations. When it comes to reel size I like to balance out my combo with either a 2000 or a 2500 size reel. Ultimately, keeping your outfit as light as you can will make for a much more enjoyable fight.
I will leave the old argument at the front door, on if you should fish with mono or braid, when chasing whiting.
Every angler will have their opinion on what type of rig is best when fishing for whiting, however, there seems to be three main players that fishermen prefer. Each of these rigs has their own unique benefits.
In shallow water, whiting are often pretty cautious and tend to stick close to the bottom. As a result of this behavior a running sinker or extended paternoster rig is best deployed.
The running sinker and the paternoster rig allow your bait to sit closer to the bottom, where the fish are holding. Given the nature of whiting which are wary in shallower water, it is best for the rig to be made up of light gage fluorocarbon, anywhere between 6-20lb, your hook, can be various patterns such as a size #4 circle or #6 long shank.
When feeding whiting can be picky and most often will not scoff a bait down. They will sit there and pick at your bait for a while, this is why the long shank hook is good, because it will take the fish some time to peel off your bait, giving the angler sometime to strike the fish. The downside to using a longshank hook is, the angler needs to be pretty attentive to their rod. Which can result in the need to fish less rods at any one time. This is why I prefer the circle hooks, as the fish will hook themselves with no intervention of the angler, allowing you to fish more rods. A combination of rigs is the best way to go. For example I will fish two rods with circle hooks and the rod in my hand will have a longshank hook set up.
In deeper water a paternoster rig using two size #4 Circle hooks is the suggested rig, the paternoster can fish with or without flasher material. The paternoster rigs will also attract fish such as: salmon, pinkies, flathead and other solid combative species. Although it is best to fish a light fluorocarbon leader when angling for whiting, it also pays to fish above 15lb leader to ensure you don’t get busted off by any of the above mentioned bi-catch species. For this reason I prefer to fish with a 20lb leader. The angler will find in the deeper water that the whiting do not shy away from the thicker leader, and at least you will not have to worry about bust offs, when using a slightly heavier gage leader.
(Flathead Bi-Catch on a Pink Flasher Rig)
One of the advantages of a paternoster rig is that your bait will sit a little off the bottom and keep your baits suspended over the weed beds, this type of rig will also be visible to the fish.
Whichever hook pattern you choice, the main thing is to ensure that you spend the time to make the bait nice and presentable. Remember not to cover the entire hook with bait and leave plenty of barb exposed. If you are using pipis or mussels just wrap the bait around the shank of the hook and each time pull the bait over the point of the hook.
The third type of rig is the modern flasher rig, usually these are set up in a paternoster style rig, however, you can buy do it yourself (DIY) hooks which already have the flasher material attached to the hook. All you need to do is attach the hook to your desired pattern of rig. For example, you can still run the traditional running sinker rig with a single flasher hook. This make fishing so much easier and a lot more productive. The bonus of the flasher rigs are their visibility to the fish. As most anglers know, whiting seem to be attracted to red, orange or pink colours, flasher rigs come in a variety colours which will suite most water conditions. Flasher rigs are made up of a material known as flashabou, which is similar to tinsel material, the flashabou material reflects the light in the water and attracts the fishes attention and entices them to bite. Flasher rigs also come in Super Ultra Violet material which have glowing properties, so are great in deeper, dirty water or at night. Hook in Mouth Tackle’s Super UV Whiting rigs are a combination of flashabou and Super UV material, which means that they can be used in all conditions,
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Whiting love a good soft bait, such as mussels or pipis/cockles, however, don’t look past the humble piece of squid or cuttlefish. If you are going to use squid be sure to tenderise it, to help soften it up. One overlooked bait for whiting is bass yabbies, they are dynamite. So if you have a pump and some time on your hands prior to going out for a whiting session, I highly recommend pumping some yabbies. The downside of the bass yabbie is that it is hard to keep it on the hook for long periods of time. Bass Yabbies are best fished live.
Berley for whiting is the key to a productive session. However, as we know burley will bring in unwanted species. Burley can also mean that you don’t have to move around too much looking for the fish as they will most likely come to you. Keep your berley simple, some pallets a handful of mushed pillie and crushed up pipis/cockle or mussel shells, will do the trick. If berley is not your thing, then you will need to move around every 15 minutes until you find a school of whiting.
Click here for a more in-depth blog regarding Berley and Bait for Whiting
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