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The hunt worth whiting about
  |  First Published: November 2016



November still sees us in the grip of squid mania. They’re red hot in Western Port and Port Phillip bays. Once a patch is located, it’s easy to spear your allowable ten fish. Finding the patch is the only difficulty. Don’t expect any of your mates to divulge hot spots. Get out there and look.

Spearing ten of the large breeders per day is a little excessive – restraint may go a long way to improving our image. By the middle of next month, the run will be over and then our thoughts can turn to crayfish and yellowtail kingfish. Cray season begins on November 16. Don’t forget to dock the tails as soon as possible at the water’s edge. This is also a great time of year for hunting the elusive King George whiting as they feature this month.

Without a doubt, whiting are my favourite finned fish to hunt. They look good, taste sensational and can be demanding to hunt. You can’t simply swim up to a whiting and smack it. They require a certain degree of finesse, patience, good breath-hold and total silence.

In general, whiting are skittish and will react to noise or sudden movement with a lightning escape from danger. Thankfully, they’re also quite inquisitive and will come in to inspect anything that the other fish species are showing an interest in. Whiting are located on sandy patches, adjacent to reef or weed growth. In ocean locations, favourite haunts are in kelp rooms with sandy bottoms or in long kelp bordered sand gutters.

I have four distinct whiting techniques depending on area and fish numbers. These techniques have only one common denominator – silence. I hunt alone. Noisy buddies may ruin a chance at good fish. If I’m specifically targeting whiting, all other fish are left alone until the intended quarry is secured. I use berley, but only to attract other species. These, in turn, may attract my whiting.

In Port Phillip Bay, where large schools are encountered, anticipation is the key. Slow kicking or drifting, be aware of your surroundings. Be relaxed and breathed up, ready to drop at the mere hint. A glint in the sunlight over the sand can mean fish. Have a deep, final breath. Descend and lie motionless on the bottom, gun extended.

Wait. A school of red mullet seen from the surface is a good indicator. Red mullet stir crustaceans from the bottom with their barbells. Whiting follow and eat any remnants. Again, descend and lie in wait with gun ready to fire.

Resist the temptation to track the fish with the gun. As the school passes and circles, the fish will progressively get closer as those at the rear of the school will cut the corner in front of you, in an effort to catch up with the head of the pack. When one crosses within range and dead in line, it’ll be yours.

Smaller groups of 3-6 fish at ocean locations are often found at the open ends of a gutter. I try not to cut off their escape route and dive at the dead-end that faces the opening. As the fish swim down gutter for a look, prepare for a head-on shot. Knowing they have an escape route may embolden the fish to approach nearer than normal. As the first fish turns, take your shot on the closest fish. Once one of them makes a decision to go, the others will follow.

Lone fish in similar ocean locations can be handled in a slightly different fashion. If they are in the gutter or kelp room, dive quietly and position yourself inside the entrance. The fish, wanting to vacate the area, will try to swim past you and present a good target. Don’t chase the fish, or wildly track it. Jerky movement or noise may convince the nervous fish to leave by swimming up and over the gutter, depriving you of a shot.

Solo fish adjacent to reef in shallow water will try to hide from you. They may find an overhanging piece of kelp on the sand and contort themselves into the shape of the letter S. An S-shaped whiting may easily be approached and shot from the surface. Drift over the fish with minimal movement to position yourself directly over the target. A good shot is all that’s required. Try to nullify the effects of surface movement.

Accuracy is all-important. The quietest stalk is worthless if you’re unable to finish with a good holding shot. King George whiting are a small target. Practice makes perfect. When specifically targeting these, I prefer a 100cm gun firing a 6mm shaft with a single point. Combined with thin 190lb mono, this is a lightning fast setup.

There are instances when Whiting behave as silly as sweep or leatherjackets. Enjoy these moments, for they are the exception rather than the rule. If you apply the above techniques all the time, your catch success should improve considerably. Whiting may be found anywhere in this state including both bays. My favourite locations are Portsea, Killarney and Diamond Bay. Whiting grow to over 1kg, but any fish over 600g is worthy of praise. Beware, large whiting are addictive.

1

The author and a lovely King George whiting, caught from peninsula ocean beaches.

2

A cracker catch of King George whiting from Killarney.

3

Some fresh Calamari from Queenscliff.

4

Odie Charles with some crayfish caught off jet skis.

5

An impaled whiting off Sorrento Ocean Beach.

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