Sand Whiting – Back to Basics

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Chris Raimondi takes us back to basics with the humble and sought after Sand Whiting. Chris explains in this article the different techniques and different locations to catch Sand Whiting

We Queenslanders are a lucky bunch. We win the State of Origin rugby league every year, we’ve got the best weather in the country and the best fishing as well. But during the warmer months, it’s not all about marlin and mackerel here in the Sunshine State. If you speak to most anglers who have grown up in South East Queensland, I reckon the majority of them would have started out fishing exactly like I did; chasing whiting and bream in the surf and in the estuaries with my father and grandfather.

It’s earliest of fishing memories that ignited my passion and fuelled the desire to catch more fish species, using different techniques in different locations. Catching the humble sand (or summer) whiting is not merely a matter of turning up to your local surf beach with rod and reel in hand though. To dominate any species, a great deal of preparation and planning should be put in and that’s certainly the case if you’re looking to secure an extremely tasty feed of summer whiting.unspecified1

Summer whiting are not to be confused with their southern relatives, the King George whiting. Although there are many similarities, the whiting we catch up here in Queensland do not grow as big and tend to inhabit tidal estuaries and surf beaches rather than bay and offshore waters. One thing that is for certain is that every type of whiting rates 10/10 for eating quality and that, combined with their accessibility from land based locations makes them the most sought after ‘bread and butter’ species around here. Pound for pound they’re also very strong fighters particularly considering the best way to chase them is by using long, whippy rods and extremely light line in the vicinity of 4-6lbs.

Unlike their name suggests, summer whiting can be caught all year round but are more prevalent in the warmer months as they tend to school up to spawn. Estuarine systems, creeks and surf beaches are all places that will hold large numbers of whiting particularly in September/October and again in March/April. Whiting tend to like living in shallow water and almost always reside in the presence of current. This explains why they fight so hard for a small fish as they spend the majority of their lives battling against the current on the edge of sandbanks and gutters. Understanding how whiting behave during different tidal conditions is vital in ensuring you catch a few, but more on that later.

One of the keys to success on the whiting is fresh bait. Don’t expect a packet of servo prawns or freeze dried worms to do the trick. Source fresh bait; be it yabbies, soldier crabs, worms or pippies. Ensure it’s a natural bait for the location you’re fishing. Where possible, keep your bait alive as a moving bait is key to catching a few whiting. That brings me back to that point about current a little earlier. Whiting almost exclusively sit facing the current when they feed. As a tide recedes, they’ll sit in the deeper water waiting for food to be washed from the shallows into their path. Whiting tend to react to movement and that’s why your sinker weight becomes vitally important. The best rig to use is a simple running ball sinker, rigged above a swivel with a trace down to your hook. If you’re fishing in relatively shallow areas (1-5ft of water), keep your sinker size small and use a trace of around 60-70cm so that your bait moves naturally in the current.

If you’re fishing deeper areas (5-15ft), fish a far heavier sinker but extend your trace to around 100-120cm. That way, your sinker will anchor your main line but your trace and bait will move naturally in the current, enticing bites. Make sure you use a very fine gauge hook as bigger whiting can be very tentative and mouth baits before taking it down. A heavy gauge hook will spook a whiting if they’re not in the mood. When the fish bites, allow it to mouth the bait and take it in; when you feel that run, lift the rod tip and set the hook. Keep the rod high and play the fish accordingly. Whiting will very rarely bust you off because they don’t tend to reside amongst structure so if your drag is set correctly, you should rarely lose a whiting through a broken trace.

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You reside in South East Queensland, you’re lucky enough to be spoilt for choice when it comes to chasing a few whiting. Having said that, there are a few systems that tend to hold huge numbers of quality whiting in the vicinity of 30-42cm in length. Any whiting over 40cm is a trophy and if you happen to land a fish around the 44/45cm mark, you’ve hit legend status! South of Brisbane, the Nerang River, Southport Broadwater and Jumpinpin are renowned whiting hotspots, while if you head north, the same can be said for Bribie Island, the Maroochy River and the Sandy Straights.

Whiting can be caught throughout the day but their open water feeding habits tend to be more suited to night time. A run out tide on dawn or dusk is just about the perfect recipe for catching a few ‘ting.’ Bycatch wise, you’re always likely to run into a few bream, particularly if you’re fishing areas in the vicinity of weed, rocks, oyster leases or similar structure. Don’t be surprised if you come across a nice flathead or two as well. It’s fairly common for a big flatty to nail a whiting as you direct it towards the boat. When you’re tiddler whiting suddenly starts ripping drag off the reel, you can assume a nice dusky has intervened. Legal size for sand whiting in QLD is 23cm and each angler is allowed a possession limit of 30. Any fish over 30cm is a quality eating proposition and let me tell you, if you haven’t dipped a piece of whiting in egg, covered it in breadcrumbs, fried and consumed it, you need to! Catch ya!

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Chris Raimondi

About Chris Raimondi

Chris Raimondi is a Brisbane based angler who's passion for fishing began in the estuaries chasing bream and whiting with his dad and grandfather. These days, Chris spends the majority of his spare time fishing offshore of South East Queensland anywhere from Cape Moreton to 1770 chasing snapper, red emperor and other reef species. Despite getting offshore at any opportunity, Chris also loves nothing more than chasing snapper on plastics in the shallows of Moreton Bay and prides himself on being an 'all rounder'.

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