King George Whiting are considered by many to be one of the finest table fish in Australia, not to mention they also provide great sport on light tackle, and provide great fun for anglers of all ages. One thing that I personally love about whiting is their accessibility, you don’t need a boat to catch these fish, and they can be found in both great size and great numbers for the keen landbased angler. The trick to landbased whiting is a combination of time and place, once you’ve worked these two out, you will be catching consistent whiting in no time!
Where to start
Before you head down to the tackle shop and buy your bait, you’ll need to make a couple of decisions, namely where you will be fishing and when you would like to go. If you’re heading down to Warneet Pier for example, check the tides before you leave, the whiting won’t fish very well here unless you’re fishing the high tide into the run-out. In other locations, the low tide will provide fish, whiting are not a ‘always x tide’ fish, yes they will feed on the same tide at the same spots consistently, but the best tide is not the same for every whiting haunt. Jump on to forums, look up fishing reports or visit your spot and talk to some locals, these methods will often tell you when whiting were caught, if you notice a pattern in the reports, such as all whiting catches occurring two hours after the high tide, then this is obviously the peak feeding time in your given location, you don’t need to fish all day for a good window of bites for two hours, fish smarter, not harder, sitting on a pier all day in the heat waiting for bites and swamping through toadfish will not make your whiting trip very enjoyable!
Finding a spot
If you want to find a fish, any fish, find its food, whiting in Westernport are known feeders of bass yabbies, soldier crabs and sandworms, these species are all often found in sandy and muddy areas, you can bet you’ll find whiting there too! Structure helps these fish feel comfortable, and if these sandy/muddy patches are complimented by weed beds, all the better. Most beaches around Victoria will produce whiting, it’s up to you to find out when, once you’ve scouted the water for sandy patches and broken ground, give it a shot during the best bite times. If you’re not sure when the fish are biting, here are a couple of things you can look for:
- Crab/yabby holes: If these are out of the water, the fish probably aren’t feeding yet, come back when the tide is higher and the whiting can reach the feeding ground.
- Water depth: If the beach you’re fishing is deep and you see no holes in the sand, try coming back on low tide to see if the holes are in shallower water, shallower water means less predators and an easier meal for the whiting.
If nothing in your location is obvious for when the fish are feeding, try fishing different known feeding times, start two hours before high tide and fish til two hours after, repeat this at low tide. You will often find the whiting start biting just as the tide starts to move, as it starts going out they feed, or as it starts coming in, sometimes they will feed on the way to the top/bottom of the tide, hence why we start two hours earlier.
Contrary to popular belief, whiting aren’t overly picky eaters, they’ll eat pilchard pieces, pippies, sandworm, chicken, squid, bass yabby and soldier crabs just to name a few things. You will find, however that once they have ‘chosen’ a bait they will tend to stick to it, there is an exception to this found withing similar baits, such as squid and pippies, the colouring of the squid will often catch whiting interested in pippies. One great way of baiting for whiting is with cocktails, these could include a pippie with an added piece of squid, or a small piece of chicken topped with a little bit of pilchard. Prawn and squid is another popular combination, experiment with different baits and see if you can find the one that stands out.
Whiting are great fun on light gear, and a light 7′ spin rod is all you’ll need to catch them, you can also use longer rods when fishing the beach for further casts. 6-10lb main line is more than adequate, I like to use Black Magic 4kg SSP as it has superior bite sensitivity for when the whiting are just nibbling the baits. My rigs are tied with 15lb fluorocarbon, I find 15lb is quite stiff on a light rig, and this prevents unwanted tangles from happening. As for hooks, I recommend either Black Magic 1/0 KL Circle hooks or size 6 long shanks, if fishing circle hooks, you will not need to set the hook, making the fishing a little bit easier, long shanks will need to be set but provide a longer hook for bigger bait presentations. Sinkers should match the current as required, but usually a 1oz bomb sinker is the best all-rounder for whiting fishing. Rig choice is up to you, I personally like to run a paternoster rig or a whiting snatcher, but if dropper loops aren’t in your arsenal just yet, running sinker rigs will catch fish too.
Once you’ve found whiting, you will have a ball catching them, and they really come into their own on the dinner table, they have been sold for up to $89 a kilo at times! If you catch a whiting, keep casting where you caught it, they are schooling fish and more will be found, you can keep the school around with burley, but I recommend not burleying until you have found the fish, as it will attract unwanted species and make it hard to find the whiting.
Click here to see a clip on catching landbased whiting from the beach