Determined, pugnacious fighter – The Whiting

It might not look much, but this 1 inch pumpkin seed Berkley fat grub is on of the authors favourites
Gary Brown
Always on the lookout for more information on fishing, I was having a browse through the catalogue from AFN Australian Fishing Network and came across a book called ' The Australian Whiting ' by Kerry Wright and depending on where you live on the coastal fringes of Australia you will at some time or another come across one of the 11 members of the whiting family (Sillaginiade).

In my book I refer to a whiting as a determined, pugnacious fighter that never gives up. They can at times be very finicky on what and when they eat and to succeed in getting amongst a few you will need to learn how to get yourself fresh and live bait.

All of the members of the whiting family have evolved to suit the different types of areas that they inhabit. Some hunt for their food over sandy and muddy bottoms, while others prefer to seek their prey in amongst the weed and gravel beds. Whiting are bottom feeders and they forage for their meals either alone or in vast schools and the mouth structure of the whiting is a very good indication of their bottom feeding habits. The next time that you catch a whiting have a good look at its mouth. You will notice that the lower jaw does not project as far forward as the upper jaw. This enables the whiting to dig and sift through the sand and mud so that it can find prey like marine worms, small crustaceans, bivalves and other small animals. Once the whiting has its prey in their mouth they have the ability of moving their lower jaw forward enough, enabling it to effectively bite in a downwards motion.

Sometimes you don't have to cast far for a feed of whiting off the beach. The gutter in this photo is right at the anglers feet
Gary Brown

Therefore baits like beach, blood and tube worms, pink nippers, pipis, small live poddy mullet (5cm) and strips of squid and fillets of pilchards are great to target whiting.

Imitation soft plastic worms worked slowly will attract whiting
Gary Brown

Peak Fishing Times

One of the main questions that I continually get asked throughout my fishing classes is, when it is the best time to go fishing, what is the best tide, best rig, where is the best spot and what is best bait to use. Now this can be a very loaded question, as it can vary from whether you are fishing from a boat or off the shore, in the estuary or off a beach, during the day or at night and from spot to spot. It will also vary depending on what state you are fishing in. This is where you need to go to your local tackle shop and seel advice from.

Seen that I live in Sydney I will give you an idea on the peak times for Sand Whiting. The greatest concentration of fish can be found during the summer months. This is usually due to the fact that around this time they tend to have an urge to spawn and then feed to bulk up for coming winter months. The whiting will move from the estuaries and bays and concentrate in numbers around the river mouths, surf beaches and coastal bars. Then during the autumn to winter months they will tend to disperse throughout the estuary systems.

Not all sand whiting will spawn at the same time, as they can be influenced by a number of things. The amount of rainfall, the water temperature and the amount of available feed. A dry season will see the fish remain in the upper reaches of the creeks and rivers, but a winter that is fairly warm will see the whiting feed more freely.

Where to find them?

Whiting will forage for their food by actively digging into the sand or mud on shallow flats with their snouts, but they can also be seen actively scampering about in turbulent or fast running water. This is mainly due to the fact the water moving over these areas will help to dislodge worms, nippers, pippies and small crustaceans. I have fished for sand whiting in water a shallow as 15cm to 15 metres in depth in estuaries, bays, creeks, rivers, surf beaches and even close off-shore reefs.

If you learn how to catch beach worms and pipis you will be well on the way to getting a feed of whiting off the beach
Gary Brown

When fishing the sand flats in the estuaries I have noticed that the smaller and larger whiting will be waiting in the channels for the first part of the tide to come up onto the flats. Once the water has started to flood over the flats it will be the smaller whiting that venture out first in search of food, while the larger whiting will tend to wait until there is more cover for them before they too move up onto the flats. As the tide starts to fall the large whiting will then work their way back to the deeper part of the channel, while the smaller ones will scurry about pick up food almost to the end.

In the surf the action of the waves will help dislodge the feed for the whiting and this is one of the reasons that you will find the whiting working close in behind the breaking waves. The other reason is that whiting don’t like to feed where the sand has been churned up as it gets in their gills.

For the new comer to surf fishing reading the beach can be one of the most frustrating aspects of fishing in the surf and one of the factors that will change the appearance of a surf gutter is the tide. For instance, if a gutter at high tide had waves breaking into it, the whiting would feed along the edge where the waves have just broken. But that same gutter at low tide may have some water in (now a pool), a sand bar on the seaward side and not be deep enough to hold any fish, that is until the tide starts to rise back over it. Much the same as a sand flat in the estuary.

Other spots that are worth trying are sandy areas that have weed beds scattered in and around them. The larger whiting will tend to patrol around the edge of these weed beds, while the smaller ones tend to dart in and out of the weed beds.

Alex Bellisimo from Rock and Beach Charters teaching a coulpe of clients the art of beach worming
Gary Brown