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Home » Fishing-Tips-Techniques » Estuary-Fishing » TIPS FOR CATCHING VICTORIAN WHITING

Victoria's fishing scene ramps up around the beginning of September each year as hoards of snapper make their annual trek into Western Port and Port Phillip Bay. By the end of December, the annual spawning run is almost over and anglers begin chomping at the bit to head out to target King George whiting.

Despite whiting being a year round target, it is from November through until March when they are in greater numbers.

By the time snapper season draws to an end, anglers in droves quickly swap their snapper gear to whiting gear and head out on the hunt.

FINDING WHITING

Whiting are actually quite easy to find however they do move about quite a bit but when you get them going it is easy to catch a great feed.

Whether fishing in Port Phillip Bay or Western Port, whiting inhabit the same type of ground, basically anywhere that is sandy with healthy weed beds. 

In Port Phillip Bay, the more popular whiting grounds tend to be in the southern region around Mud Island and its adjacent channels, St Leonards, Queenscliff, Portsea, Sorrento, Blairgowrie, Rye, Rosebud, Mornington as well as north of the Bay at Beaumauris Bay, Sandringham and Williamstown.

Rather than fishing out in the deep, whiting tend to be found in greater numbers in depths ranging 2-5 meters.

In Western Port however, finding them is a little different and requires a different tactic mainly due to the strength of current.

The location you're fishing for whiting will determine the required rig so it pays to be setup for deep water and shallow water scenarios.

Western Port is an underwater maze of shallow mud flats and deep channels but still, whiting can be found everywhere. Even so, places such as the Top End channels, Quail and Tyabb banks, Middle Spit, Eastern Channel, Tankerton, Tortoise Head Bank, Dickies Bay, Coronet Bay, Eastern Entrance, Ventnor, Cat Bay, Somers and Flinders are the most popular locations to find whiting in thick numbers.

GEARING UP

For their size, whiting go hard. Though the average weight of a whiting is around 500g, the initial hook set will determine whether or not you'll land it which is why it is vital that the right hooks and fishing rod are used.

Should you hook a whiting and it throws the hook in the first few seconds of the fight, it will swim back to the school spooking them, leaving you fishing for the next however long without a bite. Then, you'll have to make a move or multiple moves to re-locate the school.

Rod choice is critical, mainly because you need something that will absorb the short sharp runs without the pressure being on the hook and rig but more so taken up by the rod.

In Western Port, you can either fish the shallow mud flats for whiting in 2-5 meters of water using 1-2oz of weight to hold bottom or head out to 15-17m of water using 6-8oz of weight to hold bottom. You will need to have two separate outfits; one for the deep and one for the shallow because a lighter rod that is more suitable for fishing shallow wont be able to support a 6-8oz sinker in the deep.

In Port Phillip Bay, most of the common whiting ground is only 2-5m deep and the strength of the tide is like that of fishing around Western Port's shallow mud flats so you can get away with the one outfit.

In an ideal world, combining one outfit to cover all bases is not that simple but then again it can be. Due to the huge difference in depth and tide for whiting over both waterways, the Wilson Texalium RLFTX32 2-4kg allows anglers to fish light sinkers in the shallows but can handle up to 8oz sinkers in the deep so you can get away with having just one rod for all whiting scenarios.

Matched to that, a 2000 or 2500 size reel which is more than ample for the fish you're catching.

If you fish with overhead reels a Wilson Texalium RLFTX31 will fit the bill mounted with a baitcast reel as the rod is the overhead version of the RLFTX32.

Keeping your outfit light will make the battles much more enjoyable rather than just skull dragging the fish in.

Braid choice isn't that critical however, I would keep braid strengths to a minimum mainly for the fine diameter. Thinner lines reduce pressure on the line and prevents the current from taking out more line into the water than is needed. Preferably, a thinner diameter braid in 6lb or 8lb is more than adequate.

THE RIG CONNUMDRUM

There is often a lot of talk about which rig suits best when it comes to whiting fishing and while there are three main rigs to use, each has its benefits.

In shallow water, whiting are often quite shy and stay close to the bottom. It is for this reason that a running sinker or extended paternoster rig be used. These two rigs allow the bait to be closer to the bottom. Due to the nature of whiting being skittish in shallower water, it is best for the rig to be made up of lighter fluorocarbon, say something around 6-8lb and as for the hook, a Mustad #6 long shank Bloodworm.

Whiting can be very finicky in their feeding patterns and don't often engulf a bait, rather they will pick at it, which is the sole reason for the long shank hook. Using a long shank hook requires the angler to hold the rod in hand to feel for the bite and when felt, the angler can strike to firmly set the hook into the fish. Should a circle hook be used and the fish prick itself without hooking up, it could spook the entire school.

In deep water of the Western Ports channels, a paternoster rig using two Mustad size #2 Demon Light Circle hooks is recommended. Due to also attracting salmon, pinkie snapper and other hard fighting species, the paternoster rig should be tied from a minimum of 16lb fluorocarbon leader to prevent being busted off. The whiting will not shy from the thicker leader in deeper water and you won't have to be worried about being busted off if the bite is hot and having to re-tie a leader during the mayhem.

A paternoster rig allows two baits to be suspended a little higher in the water over the weeds and grasses where whiting can easily slurp up the baits.

Regardless of whether you're using a long shank or circle hook, when putting the bait onto the hook always take your time and don't rush it. You don't need to completely cover the entire hook with the bait either, just gently wrap the pipi or mussel around the shank of the hook each time pinning it over the point and barb leaving a fair amount of the hooks point exposed as possible. Baiting in this way will have the fish pin itself more easily than if the point is covered.

BAIT CHOICE

Whiting are partial to soft baits, anything they can quickly slurp up in one mouthful most of the time. Soft fleshy baits such as mussels and pipi (cockles) are the top choice however they can be fussy at times so it is important that tenderised strips of fresh calamari be taken out too. If you have a little spare time to gather fresh bait before hitting the shallows or channels, many local inlets and the Western Port shallow mud flats are full of Bass yabbies which can be used as live bait. These are a good bait choice but you must be gentle when threading onto the hook so they stay alive for as long as possible.

BERLEY

Using berley for whiting is highly effective although there are those who don't like to use it and those who do. Using berley does attract a wide range of species but whiting also and when using berley, it means you don't have to move around a lot to find a school of fish.

Using berley doesn't have to be too complex - the simplest methods are often the most effective. A berley bucket containing berley pellets and some mashed pilchards will really get them going. The berley pot should be placed on the seafloor and every few minutes give it a little shake to keep the berley flowing.

If you're not into using berley then you will have to make short moves until you drop onto a school. If the fish go off the bite for some reason, you'll have to up anchor and re-move to try and find them again. This is also effective but does take much more effort in location schools of fish.

Fun Times

Whiting sure are a lot of fun to catch and while they quite easy, initially locating them and keeping them bitting is the hardest part. Providing your setup and rigged up right for the location your fishing you should have too much trouble putting fish in your boat.

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