Whiting tips
  |  First Published: May 2006

I’ve had quite a few conversations lately about the humble, widespread and keenly sought whiting.

Last month I dared to suggest that not too many anglers would know the difference between regulated whiting and their cousins, the unregulated whiting. Regulated fish have a minimum size imposed, and sometimes a maximum size and/or an in-possession limit‚ often incorrectly referred to as a bag limit.

Strangely, the whiting most often caught by recreational fishers have no in-possession limit. Both pikey bream and yellowfin bream are regulated in that they must be at least 23cm in total length prior to dispatch for the cook. You can, however, keep as many as you want.

Both golden-lined whiting and sand-whiting are regulated fish. They too must be at least 23cm total length if you desire a feed of succulent whiting fillets. Once again, you are allowed to keep as many as your heart desires.

Please do not barrage me with e-mails claiming that I have suggested that our fishery be raped and pillaged. I am merely repeating the regulations pertaining to these very popular species.

At least half a dozen species of whiting inhabit Queensland waters. The golden-lined or rough-scaled whiting is generally identified by its silvery colouration interrupted by a yellow band running the length of the fish’s body. The anal and ventral fins are a very bright gold colour, hence the fish’s common name.

On the other hand the sand, summer or blue-nosed whiting are uniformly silver with the base of the pectoral fin carrying a black blotch. These fish can attain weights of a kilogram or more and specimens of this size are regarded as exceptional, both for a rare catch and the excellent eating quality of their fillets.

Whiting are often caught in very shallow water, sometimes only a few centimetres deep. Live worms, pink nippers or yabbies, live prawns and small soldier crabs are the gun baits for these fish. They are, occasionally, caught by lure fishers but this is the exception to the rule. I seem to recall penning the possibility that they would become the next major lure target in Queensland a few years ago. Must have had a few too many reds that night! [Plenty are now being caught around the Gold Coast on soft plastics and hard-bodied lures and in NSW anglers are even catching 40cm plus sand whiting on poppers in the shallows – Ed]

These fish are voracious feeders, as long as there is water movement. Flowing water over a shallow sand bank will put you in with a good chance of a few whiting, particularly if nipper holes are evident. The deeper water adjacent to the shallows will produce flathead and bream and just about anything else in the lower reaches of the fabulous Noosa River.

Other worthwhile estuarine targets have been flatties and bream as well as tailor, trevally and a few queenfish. Dawn and dusk have been the best times to harass the trevally and tailor, with a pretty good chance of a queenie or two as well. Surface poppers, slugs, minnows and soft plastics are all catching their fair share of these fish, but you can’t beat poppers for fun value.

I’ve had a ball this summer up at the Rainbow Villas catching barra on poppers and other surface tools such as Tango Dancers and Spooks, and I’m looking forward to next summer already. Plenty of my clients have stayed the night in the top class on-site villas, which of course provides the opportunity to fish again in the morning.

The two lakes on the property have been fishing well, with most anglers unable to contain the 20kg plus barra when they hook up. The ponds of course deliver sensational sessions on shallow-running minnow lures and big soft plastics throughout the afternoon and awesome sessions at dusk on the surface. The sound of barra snatching lures off the surface and grown men giggling and squealing like little girls after a hook-up is permanently etched into my memory.

Mid-summer saw another television crew visit the now world famous Rainbow Villas. This time it was Taryn Onafaro and her offsider from the Channel 7 show Queensland Weekender. Taryn had a ball landing 3-10kg barra around the ponds before battling a big fish in one of the lakes at dawn. While Taryn tried very hard, the hooks pulled at the last minute and the guide was left holding an empty net. At least it will make great telly – look out for that segment in October.

Offshore expectations for May should be sky high. March let everyone down with big seas and lots of rain. Let’s hope that May will give us a few good opportunities to get out there and have a go. Northern bluefin tuna should be abundant and close to shore in May, with spotted and Spanish mackerel right behind them.

Bait anglers are hoping for a good feed of coral trout from Sunshine Reef this month. Remember that you’ll need to move regularly to give yourself the best chance of tangling with some good trout.

Snapper and squire will be a more common catch, particularly on the closer reefs, during May and the onset of winter. Sweetlip, pearl perch and a few stray cobia, parrot and amberjack as well as plenty of other reef dwellers provide plenty of options for bottom bashers as we head into the cooler months.

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