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Western Port’s Royal Fish: King George Whiting
  |  First Published: December 2010



If there is one thing I have learnt about catching whiting, it is to be almost as quiet as a mouse.

As the majority of whiting fishing is often undertaken in less than 5m of water and with only a small distance of water between you and where the fish are, loud noises such as banging on the boat, talking loudly or having loud music playing is enough to spook any fish in the ocean.

At the best of times, whiting are very easily spooked and noise is a major contributing factor. Eliminate the noise levels and you’re well on the way to catching more fish.

LOCATIONS

While we all enjoy a spot of whiting fishing from now and then, they are a fish with attitude. By this I mean one day you can have a sensational day out finding them on every anchor drop, while the next they are nowhere to be found.

Whiting prefer to feed across sand holes adjacent to vast weed beds where their preferred food source is found. In saying that, larger whiting are often found in the deeper sections of Western Port over solid reef where you’d often target snapper. Providing you do your homework, finding a good patch of fish should become easier.

TOP END

The top end of Western Port is a Mecca for whiting. Specific locations such as the Tyabb and Quail Banks, Tooradin Channel, Browns Reserve, Cockyannes Channel, Charring Cross, Gentle Annie, Irish Jacks and Lyalls Channel are all popular whiting haunts and continue to produce quality fish.

During a flood tide, the banks are covered with water and may only be 5m or shallower. These banks are also covered in seagrasses; the ideal location to find whiting. The most effective technique here is to fish two hours either side of a high tide change.

In saying that, the closer to the ‘slack water’ you get, the quicker the fish will go off the bite. On the shallow banks the tide strength isn’t such a contributing factor and you should be able to get away with using a sinker weight ranging from 2-3oz.

A great way to keep the fish on the bite is to use a concoction of berley, although when the tide is slack, they will go off the bite for 30 minutes or so. Whether it is just mashed up pilchards in a berley pot or pellets mixed with tuna oil, it will do the job.

The only problem with using berley is you will attract stingrays, gummy sharks and the like which may spook the school. If the school does go quiet, it will pay to give it another 30 minutes or so before changing locations. If the fish come back on the bite during this time, stay, if they don’t, move.

IRISH JACK GPS MARK: S 38 14.926 E 145 21.868

GENTLE ANNIE GPS MARK: S 38 14.448 E 145 20.327

NORTH ARM

The North Arm encompasses the Eastern Channel, which runs north west alongside French Island and the Middle Spit. This area is heavily affected by the tide, thus allowing some very productive fishing around a tide change. For larger fish, I have found working in depths of 10m during the flood tide to be extremely productive.

If you are fishing in this depth, don’t be afraid to slip on a 10oz sinker to keep your bait on the bottom. The whiting are big here and if you’re using circle hooks you’ll have no worries with the fish staying on the hook.

If you’re fishing in the shallows, the top of the flood is better and you can get away with using 1-2oz sinkers. The middle spit is one of the more popular locations to fish for whiting but being extremely shallow on its top, the fish are very shy.

Most of the time the water is crystal clear so it pays to fish in 5m or so of water on the edge of the drop-off. Berley is also essential to bring the fish to you. Some anglers prefer not to berley and make many moves to find patches of fish. I find that berleying will bring the fish to you without the need to pulling anchor multiple times.

HANNS INLET GPS MARK: S 38 23.069 E 145 13.916

MIDDLE SPIT GPS MARK: S 38 17.380 E 145 15.836

EASTERN CHANNEL GPS MARK: S 38 20.413 E 145 16.084

TANKERTON SHALLOW GPS MARK: S 38 23.256 E 145 16.016

EASTERN ENTRANCE

One of my all time favourite locations to fish for whiting is of course the eastern entrance at San Remo. The most popular location here is the long stretch of sand under the Police Station. In season, many boats can be found at anchor and all doing well.

It is recommended you fish 2-hours either side of the tide as the current can run at a rate of knots. Further up and the entrance to the Bass River is also very good.

Below the San Remo Bridge is a Mecca for whiting and isn’t overcrowded. The depth long the shoreline is around 3-5m and has a very thick weed covering. From the bridge right down to red rocks whiting are abundant and can still be targeted year round.

MANUKA POINT GPS MARK: S 38 31.672 E 145 20.724

SAN REMO GPS MARK: S 38 30.006 E 145 23.659

THE WESTERN ENTRANCE, INCORPORATING CAT BAY AND FLINDERS

This area is huge when it comes to finding whiting but they are everywhere. I prefer to fish in close especially around the Cowes Boat ramp. Under anchor and with berley working, the fish push up with the tide. I have had my best bags of whiting come from both Mchaffies Reef and Cat Bay during a flood tide.

If you want some of the biggest whiting found in the Port, Cat Bay and Balnarring are the pick of locations to fish. In Cat Bay, simply line up the old jetty ruins and anchor in 8m of water. The reef is heavy and rocky here so you will lose some rigs but will also nail some great fish.

In saying that, if you get a good enough day, fish around Hen and Chickens Reef. This can also deliver some magnificent catching in 5m of water.

Flinders on the other hand has the clearest water in Western Port and being the entrance to the Port has some monster ocean whiting that push into the sand holes. On a clear day you can easily see the sand holes. While under anchor, it pays to cast to the various sand holes. On some you will find whiting while on others you’ll encounter wrasse and leatherjackets.

CAT BAY GPS MARK: S 38 29.992 E 145 08.535

FLINDERS GPS MARK: S 38 28.213 E 145 02.375

THE RIGS

There are many variances when it comes to which rig to use when targeting whiting. Because they are a spooky fish, I tie all my rigs from fluorocarbon material. Fluorocarbon absorbs light making it 98% invisible when under the water. With this said, I also like to use a heavier leader than normal.

In ultra-shallow water up to 3m I prefer 12lb, while any deeper and I resort to 15lb. The reason for this is in deeper water from 5-10m you usually encounter pinkie snapper, silver trevally, leather jacket, slimy mackerel, salmon as they are all fond of pipi bait. The heavier leader will prevent a bust off and doesn’t deter whiting at all.

The one style of rig that I prefer to use is a paternoster with two droppers. When the whiting are in good numbers, it is possible to catch two fish at the same time. While this rig suits my style of fishing, some prefer a running sinker rig allowing the fish to take the bait feeling little resistance from a tight line. With that in mind, I use circle hooks that require the line to be tight to work effectively.

I have always been a huge fan of circle hooks and are particularly fond of the Black Magic KL 1/0 hook because of its ultra fine needle point which has no problem in lip hooking whiting. The only time I have had to change back to a size 6 long shank is when the fish are very shy and only nibbling at the bait.

In this case, the long shank still allows me to set the hook into a fish, which may be required. On an average, I would use the KL in 90% of my whiting sessions.

Throughout the last few months though, I have been trailing a new rig with excellent results. While it the traditional whiting rig is a long shank with two red beads above the hook as an attractant, Black Magic have taken this concept further and produced a hand tied fluorocarbon rig with flashing on the KL 1/0 hook. The colours of the flashing represent the colours of sea worms, crustaceans and molluscs that the whiting feed on.

While I don’t use beads on my rigs and have never found the results to differ from having beads or not, this new style of rig has been favoured more than my original rig of just a hook and bait.

THE BAITS

Whiting only prefer small baits as most of the time they are taking Bass yabbies, sea worms, lice, open molluscs and so on. Although I have tried nearly every bait available I still prefer to wrap on a pipi. In saying that, fresh tenderised calamari strips are good and stay on the hook for longer, I still can’t resist not to take out a bag of pipis on every trip.

If there were no pipis left on the face of the earth, then I would say calamari or mussel would be my next choices but for the moment, give me a pipi any day.

If you want to put in the time and gather some fresh baits then had to the mud flats at Coronet Bay or Warneet. Bass yabbies inhabit these intertidal zones and are in abundance. Remember though, if you are going to pump Bass yabbies there is a bag limit of 100 per person.

Whiting tend to be targeted by the majority of anglers after they have finished up on the snapper. Even so, whiting are available right throughout the year but when the water temperature increases, they become more active in their feeding patterns.

With this now the case and the water temp up around 20C, now’s the time to hit the shallow in search of Western Port’s tastiest fish, the King George whiting.

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