by Shane Murton
While they may not be the biggest species to invade SA's inshore waters over the warmer months, what they lack in size whiting more than make up for in terms of the great light-tackle sport they provide, and of course their sublime culinary qualities.
Wading for yellowfin whiting on a hot summer's evening is a great way to keep cool and catch some fish.
SA is fortunate to have healthy populations of two species of whiting which are quite prolific over this time of the year - namely the King George and yellowfin (also colloquially known as silvers in some country areas). These two fish are probably the most sought-after summer species in the state, which is in part due to their wide-spread nature and the easy access to productive grounds, even for metro anglers.
King George whiting have long been the icon fish of SA, and summer is a great time to chase them if you're the owner of a small craft. It's during this time of year these fish enter the countless bays and shallow grounds around the state en masse, and while the fish may not be as sizable as those caught over winter, their sheer numbers makes this an easy period to score a feed.
While over winter KGs are traditionally found over a harder bottom type, often featuring cork weed and reef, summer is the time they spread out over a more broken, weedy/sandy environment often referred to as a combination bottom. Look to fish edges where food will likely be exposed by tidal flow or work areas with plenty of 'interesting' bottom, as opposed to large expanses of open and barren sand. KGs are mostly fringe dwellers, so focus casts on the edge of weedbeds, channels, low-lying reefs etc.
Fresh squid, Goolwa cockles (aka pipis) and locally collected razorfish are probably three of the more recognised baits for KGs. Like all whiting these days, they're also being targeted with more sporting methods by flick-stick anglers, with worm profiled plastics rigged with stinger hooks, small hard-bodies, vibes and other contemporary lures capable of catching them.
Berley is the key to attracting, holding and concentrating schools of these fish as they can be quite mobile and scattered. Crushed crabs, razorfish or cockles makes a great base for any KG berley mix. In certain country areas of SA though berlying is a big no-no over summer, as striped trumpeters and small leatherjackets can be in plague proportions and berlying should be kept to a bare minimum or you'll be inundated with these highly annoying 'pest' species.
A standard two hook paternoster rig with a size #4-6 hook rigged on around 6kg trace with a 15 or 30gram pyramid sinker is pretty regulation rigging for KGs. A light one-handed 2-4kg spin setup is all you need in the tackle department, with braid preferred for feeling those sometimes delicate bites.
Tournament angler Tom Deer with another lure eating yellowfin. This is very visual and exciting fishing!
When it comes to yellowfin whiting they have totally different behavioural traits to KGs, and the best part about yellows is you don't need a boat to get amongst them! Much like sand whiting in the eastern states, yellowfin not only look the same, they also have a similar liking for shallow tidal flats and estuary waters making them an ideal fish to wade and target - great on those stinking hot days when you feel like a dip! Small boat anglers can also focus on run-off drains, sand banks and other likely holding points.
Yellowfin are at their most prolific at the height of summer where they can be targeted right along the Adelaide metro coastline in the inshore beach gutters, and basically any beach north or south of here will hold them. Many country locations also play host with areas like Cowell, Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Port Wakefield and others noted hot spots.
While live worms are the ultimate for yellowfin, there's now dehydrated options on offer which also work.
Given the shallow and often clear water these fish are feeding in, it's of little surprise they're somewhat more fussy about what they eat compared to KGs. Many anglers don't take chances with these fish and know if they want a solid bag then live worms or clickers (aka bass yabbies) are the only way to go. Most metro Adelaide tackle stores sell live tube worms which are the ultimate for tricking even the fussiest of whiting, although they can be pricey and the local puffer fish population can give you hell some days. A good backup is to pump your own bait, or to collect beach or seaweed worms which offer a DIY alternative. Otherwise you can now purchase dehydrated worm baits which spring back into shape with the addition of saltwater and they actually work quite well and can be stored in your tackle box until required. Light running rigs with a single fine gauge size #6 or #8 hook on the end is desirable for these timid fish.
Small poppers and stickbaits are deadly on yellowfin whiting.
Like KGs yellowfin are also becoming a sportfishing proposition for the small lure brigade with tiny poppers, stickbaits, worm-style plastics and other bite-sized hard-bodies commonly thrown at them now. Yellowfin have responded in a big way to luring methods and catching them on surface offerings is probably the most entertaining way to target these fish as you can at times watch pods of whiting squabble over your slowly twitched lure before finally crunching it. Gold!
Summer in SA just wouldn't be the same if it didn't involve a day at the beach or in sheltered waters chasing one of these two species of whiting, and now is the time to be out there looking for these tasty things!