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Beach whiting on tap
  |  First Published: November 2011



As the old pro netter in that wonderful piece of Australian literature, Nino Culotta’s Gone Fishin’ said, ‘They’ve got diamonds in their backsides, have those whiting,’ or words to that effect. Yes, whiting are worth their weight in gold to pros and amateurs alike.

Their market value is always top shelf and their value to the regular rec fisho is immeasurable as a table fish and as a scrappy little fighter. And they are on the boil along all the beaches on the Illawarra coast right now.

Light 4kg line is all that is needed and you get more bites on light line and don’t need as large a sinker – something less than the size of a 5-cent coin is all that is needed.

Have this sinker running above a brass ring and a leader of about 40cm to a No 4 long-shank hook baited with the only bait that will give good results every time – fresh beach worm.

As always at this time of year, best beaches are Windang and Warilla but MM Beach at Port Kembla will start to produce well and all the other beaches will host increasing numbers as the month rolls on.

Work the edges of the gutters where the shallows roll into deeper water and if you don’t get any bites in the first couple of casts, move on to the next gutters until you find a school.

You don’t have to cast to New Zealand; quite often fish will be in the shore break right at your feet, so explore every inch of territory before moving on.

The good part about chasing whiting this way is the by-catch.

Every fish that swims on the beach loves fresh beach worms so expect flathead, bream, salmon, school jewies and, as the water warms, even a few dart.

ALL-DAY BITERS

The other thing about whiting is you don’t have to be up at sparrow fart to catch them because they bite all day.

I like a falling tide because it forces them off the shallow banks, concentrating fish at the edges of the gutters, but some prefer a rising tide so they can work the shallow flats. Experiment and see what works for you.

Flathead have made their move on the beaches as well, so flicking soft plastics into the gutters is a good way to get a few. Throw in the odd school jew, particularly in the evenings and, as always, salmon.

For the bigger jew, and there are a few about judging by the scales I spotted on a northern beach just recently, big fresh baits after dark are the go.

On the rocks it is a mixed bag at the moment with cold water mixing it with the slowly warming offshore currents.

Drummer are still on the bite in good numbers on most rock ledges that have some whitewater around the drop-offs. Royal red prawns and cunjevoi, which seems to be getting scarce in some spots these days, are the baits of choice, or good old bread will do.

A bread berley should bring in the drummer and a few of the silver trevally and bream that gather along the coast at this time.

On the deeper ledges salmon are still grabbing lures and pilchards in the early morning and late afternoon.

Big kings have grabbed a few salmon while being landed so a big squid or slimy mackerel might be worth feeding out on the heavy gear.

Bonito have also turned up and big king don’t mind them, either.

Rat kings are in the mix and don’t be surprised if striped tuna and even a stray yellowfin tuna show up down around Kiama over the next few weeks.

OFFSHORE

Offshore, flatties are on the chew over the sand patches in size and numbers, with 60cm common.

Schools of pan-sized snapper are over the reefs in 30m to 40m, with the bumps around Wollongong Reef producing quite a few. Samson fish are back over the close reefs with some nice trevally, pigfish and mowies, while the usual sweep and leatherjackets are always a nuisance.

Schools of pelagics are popping up all along the coast, with the water at times resembling a washing machine as salmon, bonito, striped tuna, small kings and trevally get stuck into the tiny baitfish.

Casting small lures into the churning masses is the way to have hours of fun. You can troll but it puts the schools down and off the bite after only a couple of fish and won’t win you any friends if there are boats casting into the same schools.

Larger kings are about at spots like Bellambi Reef and the Five Islands, so a few live baits slowly trolled on the surface or downrigged should score fish to 8kg – bigger if you can stop them.

ALBACORE, YELLOWFIN

There have been albacore hanging around the continental shelf but they won’t be there for much longer as the warmer water pushes down from the north.

Yellowfin tuna have been patchy but could come on any moment and just remember that at the end of the month there could be a few jumbos in over their old stomping grounds like Bandit and Wollongong reefs and the South East Grounds.

While not like the 1980s when dozens would be over the reefs every day, a few larger fish still seem to show up each year.

Striped marlin should show out wide this month. The Trap Reef off Port Kembla is always a good spot to start looking for them, then all go the way to the shelf and beyond. Trolling bigger skirts around the schools of striped tuna is another method that produces strikes.

A berley trail on the shelf will produce big makos and blues but anything could show up with big whalers, tigers and even a hammerhead or two possible as the warm and cool currents mingle.

THE LAKE

Back in the estuaries, flathead are the target at the moment as they gather in the main channel and along the drop-off in Lake Illawarra. They are all along the length of the Minnamurra River waiting for the prawns.

Soft plastics and live poddies will bring them undone every time. While live prawns will do the same, I prefer to eat prawns than fish so they generally don’t go for bait.

The prawns will run a few days after the full moon on the run-out tide so grab the lights and the scoop nets and go for a wander around in the dark.

Whiting are over the shallow flats and will take poppers on a quiet day but worms will get them every day. Throw in a few big blackfish on the worms and the odd nice bream and all is good in the streams.

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