Whiting are among the most prolific fish in Australia’s estuaries, beaches, and inshore areas. A number of species inhabit our waterways in temperate and tropical coastal regions and all are feisty feeders that are easy to catch. They taste sensational too.
King George Whiting are the largest of the Whiting species and can reach a length of 72cm and exceed 3kg in weight. Most other Whiting species grow to between 20-50cm in length. Sand Whiting reach a maximum size of 51cm, while Western School Whiting only grow to around 30cm in length.
HOW TO IDENTIFY WHITING
There are actually more than 30 species of Whiting. You will know you have caught a Whiting because they are an elongated fish, with a light brown to silver colour and can have a wide variety of markings the upper bodies.
WHERE TO CATCH WHITING
Whiting are found around the whole coast of Australia.
There are dozens of species of Whiting in Australian waters but the most common are Sand Whiting (Sillago ciliata) on the east coast, Western School Whiting (Sillago vittata) on the west coast and King George Whiting (Sillaginodes punctatus) on the southern coast and Tasmania.
HOW TO CATCH WHITING
All species of Whiting form loose schools in estuarine and coastal habitats. Shallow bays, mudflats and beaches are hotspots for Whiting. Whiting are commonly spotted scrounging on shallow sandbars and sandy shorelines. They have a distinct preference for sand and silt sediments or seagrass beds that provide a hunting ground for sediment dwelling prey. Large King George Whiting may also be found near rocky reefs in deep water.
Whiting nose around mud and sediment flats looking for opportunities to nip at worms, molluscs or crustaceans that inadvertently poke appendages out from their soft sediment hidey-holes. They are opportunistic scavengers and hunters that aggressively compete for any scraps of food that fall their way. This behaviour makes Whiting highly responsive to bait fishing techniques.
Whiting are easy to catch on baits and they make a great target for families and kids. Use light lines and minimal weight to avoid spooking fish in clear, shallow water. A small running ball sinker and swivel rig is ideal. Whiting also have very small protruding mouths for scrounging in the sediment, so try to select small gauge hooks that easily slide into their gobs. A long shank hook is ideal for this purpose and will comfortably hold baits of prawns, nippers and worms.
Cast baits onto sandbars, along the edges of dropoffs and at patches of sand among rubble or seagrass beds. Small Whiting are notorious for picking at baits but the bigger individuals usually commit aggressively and competitively to bites. As long as the hook or bait isn’t too big, you’re a very good chance of a hookup. Dragging baits briefly along the sediment to stir up silt can attract and arouse excitement among Whiting and encourage them to attack.
Today, Whiting are regularly captured on modern hardbodies, soft plastics and poppers. These lures are especially effective in the spring and summer months when Whiting aggressively feed on skipping prawns among the shallows.
Whiting aren’t scared to attack and nip a lure, but the trick is to ensure that the hooks are small enough to catch their mouths and that the retrieve is appropriate to stir competitive aggression. Small surface lures including small hardbodies, small grub soft plastics and small poppers can be extremely productive and should be worked with a steady twitch and skip action to imitate a fleeing prawn.
A light spin outfit is the only way to toss light lures to feisty Whiting. Long powerful casts with a fast action rod will cover more ground and increase the odds of crossing paths with a fish. Fortunately, the same outfit is also perfectly suited to bait fishing, so a switch between bait and lures is a quick and easy option. With all that in mind, go with a 2-4 kg fast action graphite rod, size 15 or 25 spin reel, 4-6lb braid or superline, 4-6lb fluorocarbon or monofilament leader, a size 6-8 long shank, a size 0-2 ball sinker and a size 6-8 swivel.