Whiting fishing is for families

Dad Robbie Warren worming with children Grace and Zak on the ocean beach at Facing Island off Gladstone.

By Joe McGuire

Whiting fishing is a family exercise activity

If there’s ever a fish the whole family can get involved in catching it’s the mighty sand whiting. They don’t often grace the front covers of magazines or take up too much of the limelight because of their size, but they are great fun to catch and have got to be one of the best eating fish around.

From a fishing perspective – what they lack in size they make up in numbers as they travel around in large schools. They might be a smaller target species, but they really put up a great fight for their size. Even catching the bait for these fish can be an enjoyable family activity. Most children love being outdoors on the beach and up a creek catching beach worms and yabbies as these are the number one choice baits for whiting. How to catch videos are all over YouTube. Whiting can also be caught on prawn and cuts of squid.

Beach worms can be found on exposed ocean beaches towards the low tide areas where the surf rolls in.

Towing a fish frame tied to a rope or a stocking up and down a selected area in the shallow water gets the fish scent flowing and the worms pop their heads up as the whitewash from the waves recedes. Once you’ve identified your target worm, it’s then a matter of getting down on your hands and knees with a small piece of fish flesh in one hand, gently and slowly placed in front of the worm to eat.

From here it’s a matter of gradually slipping your fingers around the worm’s body while the waves crash around you without spooking the worm.

Too much pressure and the worm is back under the sand and returned to hiding very quickly. Once the worm arches to rip the flesh off the bait pinch hard and pull upwards. Easier said than done, and worming pliers can be purchased to make the job easier. You must be patient and willing to get wet. Treat it like a day at the beach and everyone gets a swim and hopefully a worm or three.

Yabby beds can be found in estuary systems where there is a mixture of sand and mud. Look for sandy creek systems you can walk in without sinking up to your armpits in mud and go for a wander with the kids in tow. Just remember the bug spray to keep the sandflies and mozzies at bay. Yabby beds are easily identified by the thousands of tiny holes around 10mm in the sand. You’ll find these yabby beds below the high tide mark on the flats and generally away from the mass of larger mangroves

To catch yabbies all you need is a yabby pump and a bucket to store them in. But if you want to save yourself time sifting thought the area of sand and mud you’ve sucked out then you might want a sieve.

With a sieve you can offload your yabby pump content into it, add some clear water from nearby to flush out the yabbies. However, if you’ve got kids with you then the sifting through the area of sandy mud you’ve sucked out and usually splattered all over them is the fun part.

In addition to listening to them giggle as they try to pick up the wriggling yabbies and place them in the bucket. The kids will soon learn to pick the yabbies up by the head just behind the nippers because they will grab hold of stray fingers. I can still remember as a kid the first time a large male yabby drew blood with his oversized claw. And I can remember the strenuous workout as a young father of four kids keeping up with their overzealous screams wanting more yabbies pumped – it’s a fantastic aerobic workout in the outdoors!

I recommend you only keep the larger yabbies and leave the smaller ones on the yabby beds to live and grow for another day. The yabbies will stay alive in half a bucket of water for a few hours if the water doesn’t get too hot in the sun.

Whiting fishing is relatively inexpensive, because any 1000 – 3000 sized spin reel with light mono-filament on a lightweight rod with a soft taper around 7tf 2-6kg will do the job.

If you still have any old school Alvey reels, then they work just as well.

Any line class up to 10lb is all that’s required. Tackle required is a packet of long shank size 1-2 whiting hooks, some light sinkers, and a packet of swivels. I would advise purchasing a fish bag to carry over your shoulder. Not only can you store your fish but there is provision to carry your bait and tackle.

Where to find whiting? If you are on the surf beach, look for gutters, backwaters around rocks and sandbars.

If you have pumped yabbies in an estuary system, the whiting will eventually want to be around the same holes you pumped from so if you start on the first of the flood tide you can work your way up with the fish. Whiting push up in shallow water less than 1 ft deep. Whether you’re on a beach, on the flats, or up an estuary, if the water is reasonably clear they can be easily spotted, and sight cast to. All you need is a set of polarized sunglasses and the sun behind you, just look for the reflective flash of sunlight off their bodies. The more flash the greater the school size. Whiting has good vision so try not to get too close or they will scare.

So, after reading this whiting fishing column I hope I’ve encouraged you to purchase some whiting fishing gear for your family and either head to your local waterway or get yourself organised ready for your next family holiday to catch your own fish and chips.

Just like Mangrove Jack, whiting grow larger towards the southern parts of Queensland with fish over 40cm often caught. The ALLSTARS INSALT Whiting winners have all come from the Southeast corner this year which is no surprise.

Attention keen skilled barramundi anglers – don’t forget the Rocky Barra Bash fishing competition is on 27 to 31 October, just before the Queensland east coast saltwater barramundi season closure commences from 1 November.

ALLSTARS has months of competition still to occur and stories to share.

I have decades of fishing tips and will interview many successful commercial and recreational anglers to share their suggestions too.

As much as I like to write about fishing, I’d also like to hear from you. So please email me at info@allstarsinsalt.com.au to share your fishing trips, fishing tips, fishing stories and photos.

A day on the water is better than a day at work.