Tasmanian Whiting on the move

King George Whiting
Carl Hyland
Here in Tasmania we have various types of whiting but the most common are sand whiting and of late, the King George Whiting.

The arrival of King George to Tasmania indicates that species are on the move and some of the specimens I and others have caught are bordering on unbelievable, so much so that if it wasn’t for photographic proof, we’d be laughed out of town.

The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries do not have a fact sheet for this species in this state as not much is known about them but I can recall capturing specimens in the North of the state some years ago, so they have been about for a while.

Let’s have a look at the descriptions available for both commons species , the Sand or School whiting and the King George before talking about methods and good baits.

Silver whiting, sand whiting: Minimum size: no size limit. Possession limit: 30. Possession limits apply everywhere, including the home.

Southern school whiting have a long body with slightly tapering head. The tail is markedly forked and colour is yellowish brown with a number of orange-brown spots on the body. A silvery stripe can be seen along the flanks plus caudal, pectoral and dorsal fins are brown, anal and ventral fins are yellow or white. School whiting mature around 15cm or two years old. They grow to 33cm in length and 0.5kg in weight and live for around seven years.

Spawning occurs from late spring to late summer in Tasmania and it is likely that females spawn more than once during this time. Juveniles are generally found inshore and move into deeper water as they grow, this fish is commonly caught by anglers over sandy areas or off beaches where the fish can form large schools. Juveniles are regularly caught in beach seines at night in association with small mullet. Most commonly caught on a hook and line when using small hooks baited with small pieces of fish, prawn or squid and sand worms are also considered good bait.

A good fighting fish on light gear and excellent eating, though most Tasmanian fishers consider these fish rather small for the plate. A larger sized species, the King George whiting, can grow to nearly 5kg but is generally not found south of Bass Strait.

One of the most sought after table fish would be King George whiting . As I mentioned, this species is now starting to be caught in large numbers around the state.

A large number have been taken by a commercial fisherman fishing the mouth of the Tamar estuary last year and this, which is worrying for recreational anglers.

KG’s as they are fondly nicknamed, make their home on broken ground; rocky reef interspersed with seagrass and sand, feeding with their long sucking snouts on resident creatures like tube worms and small crustaceans which live in amongst the kelps, sea grass and sponges.

I know also that they predominately feed on squid eggs on grass beds in shallow water and will take squid pieces when nothing else will induce bites.

King George whiting
Carl Hyland

King George Whiting are on average around 40 mark in Tasmanian waters, my best is 48cm but last week anglers chasing gummy shark off Beechford near the Tamar mouth, managed two large specimens at 60cm.

Tackle and Bait
The lighter the tackle and line class the better for hunting shallow water KG’s as they are highly sensitive to heavy terminal tackle, poorly presented baits and noisy anglers clanging around. Light flick sticks like your bream rod (2-4kg) are perfect out of a boat, as are small bait-casting outfits.

Whiting can be extremely ‘skittish’ on occasions and the softly, softly approach is sometimes needed. Heavy line, noisy boats and general hubbub do not go hand in hand with whiting fishing.

Whiting are fussy feeders moving around quickly sucking in, then spitting out interesting morsels. All you feel is the quick sudden tug of the line as the fish samples your bait, but just as quickly spits it out again if it looks or tastes a bit off. You’ll benefit from slightly feeding the line back a bit after the first tug, so the fish can have another bite of your bait.

Nicely presented baits of blood or sand worms, fresh squid (caught in the same weedy area’s), and bluebait pieces threaded onto a long shank hook are all great fair to catch a KG.

For inshore KG fishing, a paternoster rig with double droppers each sporting 2-3cm of thin red plastic tube slipped onto the dropper, before looping on the hooks work okay.

Make sure you use lots of berley to bring the fish to your location. Bread, bran, chook pellets will do the job, add pieces of mulies or even old prawn shells, anything to add the attractant to your bait.

As I mentioned, rated as one of the finest tasting fish in the sea, the whiting, when first tasted could well become your most sought after ‘new’ species. Good luck.

King George Whiting sauce samples here.