Whitng in the Waves
  |  First Published: March 2004

THERE’s something about catching whiting from the surf that I have taken for granted but a lot of anglers find themselves bending over backwards for an opportunity to get stuck into some prime surf whiting.

On a recent marlin fishing adventure, I found myself discussing a recent beach whiting session with the owner of the multi-million dollar vessel that we were fishing from and to my surprise, he was prepared to sacrifice great weather and a good run of marlin to stand on the ocean beach of South Stradbroke Island and land a few beach whiting. That seems to be the feeling when it comes to these succulent little table fish and catching them from the surf just makes them look so much more appealing.

They taste great, fight hard for a small fish, have no spikes, are great for the kids to catch and basically hook themselves. Apart from the fact they rarely take a lure, they’re a perfect little package for the weekend and mad keen angler alike.


There are two distinct gutters that whiting love to feed in and both of them have to be fished and approached in a different way.

Shore break

The bigger fish like to feed on a dumping shore break when the swell is light to moderate and not too sweepy. If you can find an area of beach that has some deep water hard up against the shoreline and is dumping on the exposed sand, churning the shore up as it breaks, the whiting will be lined up to feed on everything that is washed out of the churning sand.

These types of gutters are a little hard to locate but are proven goldmines for the whiting angler as long as they are approached correctly. The fish in these gutters will be within a couple of metres of the dirty water. The shore break will churn the sand up and leave the first metre or two of the water all sandy and dirty looking. The whiting like to sit just behind this dirty water and feed on whatever is scoured from the sand. If an angler walks straight up to the shore break and walk right into the water, all the fish will be gone before your first bait hits the drink.

I like to stand 15 – 20m back from the shore and cast to the back of the dirty water line. This is a long cast, but the bait will land just a few metres from the shoreline. This is the most productive technique for catching big elbow slappers that are as thick as your forearm. The further you can cast, the further you should stand back but don’t put more lead on just to get a little further back up the beach. A size three ball sinker should give you plenty of distance and you don’t want to go any heavier.

Back break

Another gutter shape that works well on whiting is a narrow gutter that has some white water flowing over the back bank and a nice flat piece of deeper water between that and the shoreline. The technique used here is a lot different as you are better off casting to the back bank and slowly retrieving the bait back into the gutter. As the bait drops into the deeper water, the whiting will jump all over it.

The whiting will be feeding on pipis, beach worms and crabs that are washed out of the sand by the wave action and these local baits are ideal. Imported baits like wriggler worms, bloodworms and yabbies will also work very well. If dart are pinching the bait before the whiting can get to it, try to chase up a ghost crab or a little surf crab. You may have a kilo plus bream nail it but the dart will leave you alone.

Preferred gear

My preferred bait for the big whiting is a whole pipi with about 50mm of beach worm threaded onto the hook as well. This becomes a large bait that can be picked at by the little fish while waiting for the big fish to come along.

10’6 light surf rods are made for this style of fishing and Alvey reels have the benefit of being bullet proof. Line class can be as light as 2kg but in the surf, 4kg line is a better option as some monster bream can show up from time to time and they are hard work in the turbulent surf. I like a size three ball sinker and a long shank hook is a must for the worm and pipi baits as well as getting the hooks out of the fish.

Whiting have to be one of the easiest fish you will ever hook. They have very soft, fleshy mouths that even blunt hooks stick to like glue. They don’t have any teeth apart from some grinders so they will swallow a bait and they aren’t shy when it comes to weight on the end of the line. They often keep biting until they hook themselves so the less the angler does, the more chance there is of hooking the fish.

Hot summer mornings are the time to get into beach whiting. A light swell, beautiful clean water and just a slight hint of a breeze over your shoulder is whiting weather. Who wants to get thrown around on the shelf, trawling for blue marlin when the same waves that are making you sick off-shore can be washing that sand out from under your feet, making you more relaxed than you have been in years?

Don’t forget a frying pan, a little olive oil and lemon.

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