As I sit at the computer on a cold (max 13°), wild and woolly night at the end of July with the rain pouring down (225mm in three days), I am pondering what would warm me up. Maybe an outing chasing whiting in the estuary or off the beach would be a great idea during the first week of Spring.
Whiting forage over shallow sandbanks searching for worms, small molluscs and crustaceans such as pink nippers and crabs, actively digging into the sand with their snouts.
They seem to prefer fast running or turbulent water because the movement of the water helps dislodge worms, nippers and pipis.
In the estuaries during spring low tides, about an hour or two either side, the whiting congregate at the edges of the channels next to extensive flats. When these lowest tides recede to a point that the whiting can no longer stay on the flats, the then move back to the channels and gutters.
Other spots that are worth a shot for whiting are potholes formed in the estuaries by the incoming and outgoing tides. Because whiting tend to swim close to the bottom to escape the fast-moving tide they hold up at the edges of these potholes and allow the current at the edges to expose their next meal.
It’s also worthwhile checking out the edges of seagrass and weed beds, sheltered deeper areas of estuaries and bays, beaches, and gutters that run parallel to rocky headlands and breakwalls.
The baits used to take whiting vary considerably around Australia.
On the east coast some of the best baits are squirt, blood, beach and tube worms, nippers or bass yabbies, peeled or live prawns, pipis or cockles, fillets of pilchard, soldier and spider crabs and strips of fresh squid.
A good place to start looking for whiting in the estuaries is where there are numbers of worm or pink nipper holes.
If you are in a boat you should try to avoid travelling right over them, but run along the deep side of the area until you are up-tide from these flats. Then move across the tide until you are directly upstream and quietly lay out your anchor, letting out sufficient line to locate your boat within casting distance of the first sand holes.
Should the sun be noticeably to one side or the other, attempt to position your boat so as not to cast a shadow over the most promising fishing areas.
Cast to the sand holes and edges within range initially, and then let out additional anchor rope to bring the other sand holes, those further down the tide, within casting range.
On the move again, look for likely areas along the edges the banks that drop fairly abruptly into deep water or are fed by smaller channels or drains likely to be conduits for fish entering or leaving the bank as the tide rises or falls.
Fish these likely areas energetically for 30 to 45 minutes before moving in search of another area, and so on until you locate a school of whiting.
As soon as you catch a fish, cast to where that fish was caught and throw in some berley to hold the fish and attract more to that area.
When using surface lures for whiting it is important to consider water depth and structure. Fishing the wrong spots will leave you without success and the poor old surface lure gets chucked back into the tackle box, never to see the light of day again.
All of my best fish have come from water between 30cm and 1.5m deep. I tend not to fish any deeper than 2m and fish that deep only on a clear, hot Summer day.
Shallow sand flats where you would find yabbies are ideal places to start, along with shallow weed beds, particularly if you can find some with sand patches through them.
It doesn’t matter how shallow these flats are, as long as the weed isn’t on top of the water your surface lure won’t foul up on weed and it will surprise you to see how big some of the fish are that come off the very shallow flats.
The front edges of weed beds where they drop into deeper water are also great places. Fish hide in the weeds and ambush anything edible that crosses nearby.
Retrieving your lure across the face of the weed or over the top often results in success.
I use a large range of lures from 35mm to 70mm in various brands and colours. I prefer the more natural colours that look like baitfish or prawns and more often than not transparent ones.
I like poppers which splash and make a blooping sound, and the walk-the-dog style lures that dart and zigzag across the surface, which are usually better on calm, bright days.
Popper strikes provide an instant shot of surprise and delight that make me jump, flinch and laugh at the same confused moment.
Hopefully that’s how to warm up your first week of Spring.Reads: 1405