Catching King George Whiting
Long Live the King
The King George Whiting is one of the Southern waters most sort after fish. Pound for Pound the King George is champion of all the Table Fish. Silver, Finicky, Strong and absolutely delicious the King George Whiting is a welcome addition to any anglers creel.
On the plate there are very few fish that match the sweet and delicate white flesh of the King George Whiting. Filleted, whole, steamed or fried the King George Whiting is a dish fit for Royality and a welcome addition to any dinner plate.
Distributed from southern Western Australia to Southern New South Wales the King George Whiting reaches a size of over 4 kilograms, but exceptional fish are considered to be over 1 kilogram. King George Whiting inhabit grass beds and reef edges but for the ultimate in King George habitat look for sand patches in the middle of reefs and grass beds or Sandworm or Nipper beds. Whiting prefer shallow costal waters and are rarely found in depths greater than ten meters, yet there are times when larger specimens will reside on the fringes of deep offshore reefs and channels.
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Whiting typically eat Marine Worms, and crustetions such as Shrimp, Crabs and nippers, while these baits are supreme on whiting baits such as Squid, Shell fish, and fish strips are also very productive. When fishing for whiting I find Marine worms and Nippers to be the ultimate bait, but failing a reliable supply of these Pippies, Muscles, Scallop gut and Squid strips are a close second. When fishing oceanic waters for Whiting I prefer more oceanic baits such as Pilchard fillets, Squid Strips and Pippies. These baits also open up the opportunity to catch Snapper, Trevally, Flathead and Tommy Ruff, thus increasing your chance of taking home a brace for the table. Whiting can be very fussy and are best targeted with fresh bait. Whiting can be so fussy that they will often refuse to eat a bait that has been mouthed by another fish. If you have a bite and miss your fish, it’s always a good idea to change the bait.
Gear for whiting is as simple as a six to seven foot rod and a 1000-4000 size spinning reel spooled with 2-12lb line. Many anglers like to employ the features of a Nibble tip rod as Whiting can be fickly and shy, while this can be an advantage I don’t find it a necessity. Anglers in both shallow bays and tidal estuaries target whiting. In the shallow bays whiting are easily targeted with lightly weighted rigs, while when the whiting are in the tidal estuaries or in deeper water sinkers of up to 12 ounces may be required, this is especially evident in Victoria’s Western Port Bay. When you are fishing deep areas where large sinkers may be required I always use braided line. Braided line has a thinner diameter than Monofilament, so the line has less resistance against the water, this reduction in resistance enables you to use smaller sinkers, giving you more feel and greater fishing enjoyment.
Rigs for whiting are quite simple. For those fishing over the weed beds and in Fast running water a dropper or paternoster rig is preferred and for those fishing in the less turbid waters a running sinker rig with about 50-75 cm of trace is preferred. Traces for whiting should be monofilament and preferably fluorocarbon. The breaking strain of the trace should be between 2 and 5 kilograms. Whiting have no teeth or a mouth capable of creating damage, however some of the by-catch such as Snapper, Flathead and wrasse will cause damage so my preference is a 4kg trace. Hooks for whiting are quite simple, I just follow the simple rule of matching the hook to the bait. For example those using worms and Squid Strips should employ long shank or bait holder pattern hooks and for those using pippies and other shell fish should try and use a wide gap hook. Whiting will at times have a preference for a rig “Flashed Up” with red beads or a 1 inch piece of red plastic tubing. My understanding of these rig decorations is that the whiting are attracted to the pieces believing they are sand worms or other similar forms of food.
When whiting fishing anchor up on the edge of reefs and weed beds and channel edges. Sometimes to position your boat correctly you may need to use a stern anchor. Stern anchors are great for holding position, however a swell or boat wake can spell disaster if the anchor is deployed incorrectly. It’s very important to make sure that you anchor quietly so you don’t “Spook” the fish, and at the same time position the anchor so the boat sits over your desired fishing area. There is no point positioning the boat perfectly over your desired location only to hurl the anchor over the gunwale sending water skyward and the anchor clunking and rattling all the way to the ocean floor while the fish bolt for cover not to been seen again. When anchoring always take into consideration variables such as tide and wind. It’s common for Whiting to feed in a very small area, so it is imperative to make sure you are where the fish are. Whiting are a fish that will at times swim in a pattern around their home. This swimming pattern is called a “Beat”. Anglers should make the most of this habit and play to the Whiting’s Beat. Anglers should fish 2-4 rods and cast their offerings to likely fish holding areas. When a fish is caught cast a line into the same area as well as cast one rod slightly up stream and one down stream. It is very common for whiting to be caught in only a very small area around your boat so this is why you continue to cast where you are catching the fish. The reason that you cast rods up and down stream of this action is to make sure you keep up with the fish’s beat and don’t loose track of them, otherwise it could be 20 or so minutes before your next fish. Sometimes you may need to move your boat several times to find where the fish are. If you have been using burley its always best that you search down stream of your present location and only changing position by 20-40 meters, this keeps you following your burley cloud and hopefully following the fish, this is only a rule but more often than not I find it a very effective one. Sometimes you may need to move several times to locate the fish, but when the whiting are on bag limit catches are comon.
When fishing for Whiting it is imperative to keep your line tight and in contact with your bait. Whiting sometimes prefer the bait very slowly moved across the seabed while other times a stationary bait is the best presentation. My advice is to always try both methods. The Whiting bite can be very fast and sharp and anglers can get over anxious and miss many fish, the key is to only strike at the fish when you feel the weight of the fish, remember wait for the weight. If you do whoever miss a bite, don’t be to worried, the bait that just fell off your hook is now acting as burley keeping the fish biting. Now just bait up and cast back in the same spot. A great tip when whiting fishing is to have a squid jig over the side of the boat. This is because squid and whiting are often found in the same habitats. A squid jig over the side can often proved some wonderful bait and delicious squid rings. I have saved many fishing trips with the good old squid jig dangling over the side.
Burley can be a help when whiting fishing. I find a heavy burley of crushed shellfish to be the most effective. Crushed Muscle and Scallop shells combined with a few burley or chook pellets is a prime whiting attractant, combine some prawn shells or other old bait and tuna oil and you can’t do much better. In areas where the tide runs fast it is a good idea to secure your burley pot to your anchor. This simply dispenses the burley in the water column where the fish are and within an easy casting distance from the boat. When fishing less tidal waters anglers can simply throw handfuls of burley into their desired locations.
When you intend to bag a few whiting for the table, I always try and put the prized catch on an Ice Slurry. An Ice Slurry is simply a mixture of ice and salt water. This method prevents the fish from spoiling and produces firmer flesh and better eating. I always say that “If your going to kill it, chill it”. There is nothing worse than seeing a catch of fish ruined or even worse dumped due to it not being treated correctly.
So get out the light rods, grab some fresh bait and go out and get amongst the good old Chinese Fish the “Whi Ting”. Please limit you catch rather than catch your limit.
Tight Lines and Calm Seas.