Whiting in the waves
  |  First Published: December 2012

It’s time to grab your stink bag, get the legs wet and pull a few beach worms because they are what you need if you are fair dinkum about catching whiting in the surf.

Now the shallows have warmed up, whiting are back on the menu and gathering in greater numbers every day.

The best beaches to start looking are those closest to Lake Illawarra, like Windang, Port Kembla, Warilla and that special whiting beach, MM.

Light line is the key to success, as is patience, because they are not spread out all over the beaches yet. You might have to do a little work walking the gutters and flats casting to likely spots until you find a school.

When you do, it is a simple matter of casting to the same area and waiting for that tap, tap, tap and pulling them in.

Light line lets you get away with a smaller sinker and allows the bait to move about in a more natural manner. A light leader of 40cm or so of 6lb with a long shank No 4 hook and just enough ball sinker to drift it around in the washes you are in business.

Sometimes the light line can be a disadvantage when a big salmon or school jewie grabs a worm meant for the whiting but with patience and a smooth drag you will land these fish. It takes a little longer but gives greater satisfaction.

Who wants to just rip fish out of the water as fast as they can; it’s meant to be fun and if you miss a couple, so be it. That’s what keeps us coming back.

Whiting will get bigger and move in numbers over all the beaches towards the end of the month and there will be schools on other beaches right now, but the ones around the lake are the best places to start.

Lake Illawarra has plenty of whiting around the flats at the entrance and over the shallows leading to the drop-off but here you will get better results with squirt worms and nippers. Fish them with the same rig and you can’t go wrong.

Small live prawns get some nice fish too and if boat traffic is quiet, poppers over the shallows score the bigger, more aggressive fish in the area.


With the whiting on the move along the beaches this means the big jewies will not be too far behind and in need of fattening up before their spawning run.

Late December is renown for some of the bigger jewies of the season so pick your favourite gutter and keep your ears open at the bait and tackle shops for any captures. This info can take time to filter through at times late mail is better than no mail at all.

Use fresh bait, preferably caught that day, and you have as good a chance as anyone. There are also reports of 6kg-8kg school fish on plenty of beaches.

Flathead are the big movers on the beaches this month with some very good fish moving in or being flushed out of the creeks after a big storm. They are taking whiting baits and jewie baits and they can’t resist soft plastics cast into gutters, which is never boring.

The ever-present salmon at times have baitfish pushed right into the shore break, making for exciting fishing.

On the rocks the action is starting to hot up as well with salmon, small kings, bonito and tailor working the headlands for baitfish. Port Kembla breakwalls, Honeycomb, Windang Island, Bass Point and all the deep points around Kiama fish well this month.

Spend time catching live yellowtail, mackerel or squid because big kings are lurking in the washes early morning and late afternoon. They’re great to hook but hard to land.

For maximum excitement value you could try big poppers cast on a short, heavy threadline outfit.

There are still plenty of drummer and bream in the washes if you walk the edges and cast unweighted prawn and cunjevoi baits into likely-looking spots.


Offshore can be hit-and-miss over coming weeks with cold upwellings turning everything off. Surface water of 15° is not uncommon at this time of year before it boils through the next day at 22°-23° and full of life before settling down after Christmas and getting sensational.

The FADs are always worth a look for any early mahi mahi, which are generally bigger than the hot water schoolies.

Kingfish don’t mind a little cooler water and as long as the current is running they will have a crack at your baits.

Bellambi Reef, the islands and Bass Point are key spots close to shore while Wollongong Reef, Bandit and The Hump off Stanwell Park in the north will be the pick of the deeper spots.

Downrigged squid and slimy mackerel seem to be the method of choice these days but in the deeper water big knife jigs are lethal. Leatherjackets can prove costly to the jig stocks.

Farther offshore there have been a few school yellowfin up to 30kg but they are patchy and a long way out.

A few striped marlin have been sighted and hooked while chasing the ’fin but it won’t be long before the blacks arrive. A few could show up in the last week of December as they pass through because we know they will be in Jervis Bay for the LBG guys right after Christmas, as they are most years.

There are plenty of striped tuna out past 50 fathoms and a few schools blowing up in closer, along with salmon and bonito in the bays and off the headlands.

Over all of the sand patches there are plenty of flatties, some pushing 60cm, particularly up north. They will not last because the trawlers put the cutters through them during the nights in the run-up to Christmas. When they disappear there are still fish on the smaller sand patches.

Morwong are around in good numbers and if you anchor and berley there have been good numbers of snapper to around a kilo over the reefs and gravel.

Will this be the season that the teraglin make a return? It seems to be every four years or thereabouts, so a look at the trag bumps on a warm, moonlit night could pay dividends.

Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra River are full of flathead that most days bite on soft plastics, live poddy mullet, prawns and whitebait.

Have a safe and happy Christmas.

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