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Much sought-after whiting
  |  First Published: December 2004



There has been much said about King George whiting by many writers. Some people say the species is overrated.

I can’t see how these fish could be overrated at all. I share an opinion with many in the fishing community that King George whiting are just about the best fish in the ocean.

King george

It is thought that King George whiting begin life in waters around South Australia and drift with the currents until they make it to Victoria and elsewhere.

They are great fighting fish for their size and many a rod has disappeared over the back of a boat due to lack of attention from the angler. King George whiting are one of the largest and the most-targeted whiting species.

The really big fish are found in Western Australia and South Australia where they are known to grow up to 70cm and weigh well over 2kg.

The smaller fish spend their early years in estuaries before moving out into the deeper ocean waters. The generally hang out in deeper water during the cooler months, but come into the shallower water during spring and remain there during summer.

Catching them

Whiting are widely distributed in Victoria’s coastal waters and when on the go are very easy to catch. When they decide to go shy then the opposite is the case.

Whiting will take a variety of baits including pipis, squid, worms, Bass yabbies and strips of pilchards. One of the advantages of pilchards is that it seems to deter nuisances such as toadfish, which can be a real problem as they have the bad habit of gulping down bait as soon as it hits the water.

Fishing for whiting with lures has not met with a great deal of success and bait fishing remains the most productive method. Berley can work reasonably well but many experienced anglers feel it also attracts unwanted pests.

There are numerous rigs that can be used for whiting. Two hooks above a number two bean sinker, is popular. Another is a running trace above a sinker, which is very effective as it allows the bait to waft around in the current in a very natural manner. This rig has been the brainchild of Wonthaggi angler Alan Bentick and, as such, I call it the Alan Bentick rig.

tips from the top

Alan has fished for the past 50+ years and has had a great tutor in his dad Ernie. Both are very well-known in the South Gippsland area and are life members of the Wonthaggi Angling Club.

They mainly chase the whiting around Wonthaggi and surrounding areas. The whiting haven’t really changed their diet over all the years, which is understandable when pipis were, and still are, one of the most popular baits. Alan says that as the years wore on more people more were acquiring boats and could access the better fishing spots. Fishing methods became more sophisticated with better equipment including depth sounders, which not only showed the water depth but also fish locations and size. Naturally these advances have had an adverse effect on numbers and Alan is concerned for the future of these magnificent fish that have graced our tables over so many years.

Over the decades he has learnt much through trial and error saying that it’s no use getting older if you don’t get wiser. For instance, he has found that whiting bite better when there is some chop in the water. A dead calm day might make for comfort on the water, but generally does not make for great fishing. One theory is that if you can see down into the water and spot the fish then the fish can also see up through the water and spot you.

Alan says one of the most important things as far as whiting are concerned is to have a variety of fresh bait. He favours pilchards these days. He reckons that as well as his success with them, they seem to deter the rubbish fish.

Another important thing is to keep a diary, as fish are creatures of habit and he has on many occasions looked back over the years and seen that he has caught whiting in the same spot at a particular time of the year.

His records show that over the colder months of the year, whiting seem to move out to the deeper water. The fish seem to return in good numbers upon the arrival of spring and good fishing can be had right through summer.

whiting hotspots

In South Gippsland the whiting spots are many and varied.

Western Port

In Western Port they are scattered all over and can be taken in deep and shallow water. In some areas such as around San Remo many seem to disappear in the winter months only to return around September when they stay through out the warmer months.

Many other species also arrive in big numbers and there is a rule of thumb that the last of the run-out tide and first of the run water is the best time for whiting. As we all know, fish have a bad habit of breaking the rules and this certainly applies at San Remo. I have found that whiting, at times, have a taste at all tides with a 10-15km/h breeze following the run-in tide presenting the best conditions.

One of the things that anglers detest at San Remo is an east wind and we seem to have more than our share of them, especially through the summer months. It’s generally conceded in South Gippsland that if the wind is in the east that the fishing prospects are very slim.

Kilcunda

Off the rocks at Kilcunda often produces whiting in reasonable numbers during summer. This is not exactly common knowledge as it is not everyone’s cup of tea to fight the elements.

The whiting are quite often around 50cm, which means fish approaching 1kg. The best time to wet a line is usually at low water on both sides of the tide.

Harmers Haven

Another favourite spot for big whiting is at Harmers Haven where land-based anglers and boaters can fish close into shore in the sand holes on a variety of baits.

I suggest trying Bass yabbies, pipis, pilchards and squid for best results. On the subject of rigs, I use a metre long leader with a running sinker on a short leader for best results.

Flat Rocks

Further along the beach towards Inverloch is an area known as Flat Rocks, which is mostly fished by locals and visitors ‘in the know’.

A casual glance suggests that the boats are not more than 150m from shore and land-based anglers at low-tide are very optimistic. The sand holes, not much more than a couple of metres deep, hold quality whiting.

Anderson Inlet

Anderson Inlet is another one of those hot whiting spots with probably the best area being in the vicinity of the ‘bathing boxes’. The location is approximately 400m inside the entrance where there is a yellow marker.

This is where the tide flows the fastest and the best fishing is on the last half of the run-out tide and first couple of hours of the run-in water. At other times the tide flow is too fast.

It is here that whiting can be taken to the 40 cm mark. Blood worms are dynamite in this area along with Bass yabbies. I also came across a local gentleman by the name of Istvan Patyo and I was intrigued to see that he had with him on the beach a trusty, but rather rusty, push bike that was also serving as somewhere to rest his fishing rods. On the back was a crate and Istvan explained that this was for all the fishing gear that he needed. He also said that it was easier to ride or push the bike across the sand than carry the weight and who could disagree with him?

Waratah Bay

Nearby is another great whiting spot called Waratah Bay. There is not much else there apart from a caravan park that is run by Barry and Leanne Mc Gannon and the fishing guru is their right man in Ray Spokes.

The water is shallow at Waratah Bay and does not look too inviting but just beyond the breakers there are superb whiting. They seem to favour pipis and to a lesser degree, squid.

The idea is to have a light tinnie which can be launched off the beach as there is no proper boat ramp in the area. The whiting are in this vicinity year round but Ray says that they are at their peak in the warmer months.

Shallow Inlet

Shallow Inlet is another ‘must visit’ area. Before I visit the area I call Greg Buckland, who runs charters in the area and is the person to contact at the Sandy Point general store. What Greg doesn’t know about the area isn’t worth knowing!

The fish are not huge by some proportions but are around the 38cm mark and they are well worth going after. Pipis, squid and pilchard strips seem to be the best baits in this area. The best spots are around the caravan park and at the top end of the bay in around 3m of water.

Ray Mountain has the local caravan park at Shallow Inlet and has his finger on the pulse. Having been there for the last seven years or so he knows what’s going on fishing wise.

Corner Inlet

Not far away is another whiting area, Corner Inlet. If anyone planning a trip there, give Les Lengyel a ring at the Yanakie Caravan Park. He has been fishing all his life and knows the area backwards and will point you in the right direction.

There is a very serviceable boat ramp at Yanakie but can be used only at high water and as the water runs out it is replaced by mud. Whiting here sometime take squid, but often quickly their diet to pipis for some reason. The fish are often around the 35cm mark. Channels such as Bennison, Middle, Duck Pond and Golden Creeks are very productive.

Port Welshpool

Further to the east, Toora Channel is renowned for whiting. I regularly fish Welshpool and before leaving home ring the good people at Welshpool Boat Storage for the latest in conditions and fishing in general.

I have always found that the Lewis Channel is just about the most reliable spot to wet a line where whiting to 40cm are quite often taken on pipis, Bass yabbies and squid. As usual when fishing for whiting the idea is to have a variety of baits.

Port Albert

A short distance to the east is Port Albert where the eyes and ears in the area is local publican Mick Alderson. I suggest you make it your business to call in and see Mick.

Whiting are regularly taken by boaters in the vicinity of the Basket Beacon during summer. They are also taken from the local jetty at this time of year, which is just over the road from the hotel. Best baits are Bass yabbies, pipis, squid and strips of pilchard.

Shallow water in summer

In many of these whiting spots you may be fishing in relatively shallow water. This could mean that in the run-off tide you could experience mud banks coming out of the water. Be aware of this because you could be caught high and dry, and will have to wait for the run-in tide to refloat your boat.

I’ve fished for whiting for many years and they are still just about the best ‘pound for pound’ fish around. Whiting are one of the few fish that don’t have spikes, teeth, gill rakers or something else to inflict pain. They are virtually all flesh, good fighting, excellent on the table and a great fish to target among beginners and experienced anglers alike.

With any form of fishing there is one proviso. Remember that no matter how good the fishing is, always remember that safety is of greatest importance. Good fishing!

Facts

ON THE TABLE

King George whiting are known for their superb eating qualities. They have a small head and when filleted properly there is very little waste. I have found that by using a fork to hold the fillet, the rib cage can then be easily removed with a sharp knife. It’s worth a try as it is much quicker. Of course, practice makes perfect.

Many anglers like to keep their whiting in a bag hanging over the side of the boat in the water to keep them fresh. I don’t like this idea much and would rather keep my catch in the boat in an ice slurry. By this I mean that that ice is added to saltwater, which kills the catch humanely and quickly. Another reason that I am not in favour of hanging the catch over the side in a bag is that on more than one occasion I have seen a hungry seal come out of nowhere and try to steal a free meal! There is no reason why a shark would not try the same trick. Other anglers have just failed to secure the catch to the side and then just disappear for some unknown reason.

Facts

WHITING TACKLE

Many anglers prefer a light action, 3m rod when fishing for whiting with anything up to 6kg line.

I like longer rods with a light action as I find that it is easier to control the fish and keep it away from the motor or other obstacles. Another plus is that with the longer rods you have a longer striking arch.

The 6kg line idea might have some purists shudder, but with modern technology these days there is virtually no difference, thickness wise. If a bigger fish happens to come along then the heavier line will give you a better chance of landing it.

Size 6-4 long shank hooks are preferred. The long shank is favoured as they have an advantage of being easier to remove if deep hooked.

The use of sinkers varies and much depends on the tidal flows. Use only as much weight that is needed to get to the bottom.

CAPS

1. Inverloch angler Istvan Patyo fishing for whiting at the ‘bathing boxes’ at Anderson Inlet. His bike doubles as a rod holder and tackle carrier. (Shortly after this photo was taken he landed a 1.3m gummy shark on the whiting gear!)

2. Anderson Inlet Angling Club member Mo Tiziani with two whiting, each over 500g, caught at Waratah Bay.

3. A 45cm elbow-slapper Venus Bay whiting taken on live sandworm.

4. Pipis are the number one bait for King George whiting in South Gippsland. Squid is another favourite.

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