Catching KGs

There are more than a dozen species of whiting found in Australian waters from the tiny red spot to the yellowfin whiting and even a winter whiting. However despite being widely distributed right around the country in various shapes and sizes but for Al McGlashan there is one species that stands out above the rest – the magnificent King George whiting.

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They don’t grow particularly large, in fact a 40cm fish is a big one, but what they lack in length they more than make up for in looks and taste. In fact I would go as far saying on the record that the King George or KGs are one of the best eating fish in the sea!

KGs prefer coastal waters inhabiting bays and the larger estuary systems, such as Corner Inlet and Western Port in Victoria as well as the Kangaroo Island and South Australia’s Spencer Gulf. They are also present right over in the West but for some reason are rare in Tasmania and NSW. A shallower waters inhabitant, KGs favour water from 2 to 20metres, but at times will move right out past the 50 metre line especially in South Australia.

One of the best places to find them is around seagrass beds, especially those that are broken up with sand patches. Drop offs like channel edges, as well as reef edges and rubble patches are also where they can be found. As a general rule, adult fish favour deeper waters while the smaller ‘school’ sized fish favour shallower water. Places like Western Port in Victoria are so productive because it has all these habitats making for some prime whiting real estate!

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KG’s are a year round option in most areas, although the smaller fish tend to dominate catches over the summer months, especially in Victoria and South Australia. Alternately the bigger fish are best targeted in the cooler months especially spring and autumn. A schooling fish, KGs tend to congregate at specific spots according to the tides and seasons. The trick to being a good KG catcher is to get a feel for their movements so you are always fishing where the fish where the fish are then you simply can’t catch them!

The trick is to never stay in one spot too long. As a really rough guide I would suggest anchoring up, fish twenty minutes and then bail if you don’t get any action. Same goes if there are two many pickers be it flathead, small snapper or leatherjackets then move. Keep repeating the process till you encounter fish, then use berley to try and hold them in the area. I should also add that you need to understand the tides and whenever you catch fish always take note of the stage of the tide, this is a key to figuring their daily movements out.

It doesn’t take long to see there are particular spots where the whiting like to congregate at different parts of the tide. Knowing their daily movements is critical and the better you understand them the more consistent the action.

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Fishing tricks

There is no need for fancy rigs when it comes to whiting. A simple paternoster rig with one hook will catch KGs in any situation. Some anglers like to run two hooks but when the fish are running you are better off with one because if you get two big whiting on at once then they can bust each other off.

Long shank hooks in sizes 4 to 6 used to be all the rage but anglers have now upgraded to the more effective circle hooks. Despite their small mouths circle hooks work a treat and are absolutely deadly on all whiting species.  As far as lead goes you should only add minimal weight, just enough to hold bottom. I like to run a loop knot and then attach different size sinkers (the ones with the swivel in them) to suit the varying tidal flow, this way I can keep lead to a minimum. Another option is to run an ezy rig which is even easier to use, where different sized leads can attached with ease.

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Another recent introduction is fluorocarbon leaders. Yes, I know they have been around for a while but it is only recently that anglers (myself included!) have started using them on whiting. KGs have awesome eyesight and are very finicky when presented with poorly rigged baits. Small circle hooks on 6kg fluorocarbon leaders will fool the fish in dirty water while in crystal clear water you might need to drop down in leader size.

A lot of anglers use to attach red beads, or short lengths of red plastic tube in the hope that it would give them a better hook up rate. However in reality this seems to have been nothing more than a con from the tackle trade to make you buy more. There is no conclusive proof that this actually works, especially when it is not even known whether whiting have the ability to identify different colours. Personally I think a natural bait presented properly is a much better option.

Berley is a huge asset and will help to attract and, more importantly, hold the whiting in the zone. The best berley is crushed shellfish and prawn scraps, but even pilchards will work. Keep the trail light, just enough for them to smell it and get excited. One trick the pros use is to employ a berley bomb. The problem is that if there is a bit of current then your simply not going to get the berley into the strike zone. Worse still in some cases the berley actually ends up dragging the fish away from you. The best berley bombs are the homemade ones that fill with berley and drop them to the bottom. Suspended off the front of the boat and given a shake now and again means that fishing off the back of the boat will put your baits right in the berley.

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Whiting are opportunistic in nature and will eat a wide variety of baits like squid, mussels, nippers and sandworms, however pipis are definitely on top of the list. The one rule that applies is to always use fresh bait. Don’t waste your time with old stuff. Whiting are fussy little snobs and will turn their nose up at anything less than the freshest of fresh bait. Bait presentation is really important so take the time to thread the bait onto the hook and up the shank to conceal as much of the hook as possible. Use small baits and don’t smother the hook. Remember, whiting have very small mouths and they are going to struggle with a big bait makes them harder to hook. KG are a schooling fish and this is something that anglers can exploit. Once you catch your first fish get another bait out into the same area as quickly as possible before the school moves on.

On the table

KGs are bloody beautiful on the table. The firm white fillets that are exceptional on the table. In fact I would go as far as saying they are one of the best eating fish in the sea. Beer battered and pain fried is about as good as it gets especially with a few coldies after a good day on the water.

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