By Alex Ciccozzi
With winter well and truly upon us it can only signal one thing for many boating anglers, and that is the King George whiting season. Known for their superb table quality, whiting become the concentration of many fisho’s efforts during the winter months as the snapper gear tends to take a bit of a back seat.
Signs were promising early on in the year for a bumper metro season ahead, with a few reconnaissance trips in late April producing healthy fish around the low to mid 30cm mark. Fast forward a couple months and the fish have well and truly schooled up on the inshore grounds within easy reach of many small boat and kayak owners, and for those willing to brave the crisp early morning/late arvo air temps, the rewards are certainly there to be had.
Areas off the Broadway, Hallett Cove, West Beach and north of Outer Harbor should all be firing by now. For the newcomer, generic marks readily available on the internet can often yield some good surprises or at least provide a good starting point to then branch off from. Look for broken bottom of sand and reef or berry/tape weed, and fish as close to the weed edges as you can where possible. I prefer to concentrate my efforts around the 7-10m depth for those clear, calm days, and 5-7m when the water is cloudy following an onshore blow. If widespread areas of broken bottom are encountered you may opt to try locating fish on the drift, allowing you to cover more area and keep baits on the move. At anchor, berley is good to help get things started and it keeps the fish around the boat once located, however if you land on a spot and don’t lose a bait for a good 10-15mins then it’s best to pull up and move.
King George whiting can be aggressive feeders at times and put up a great account for themselves on the right gear, however they can also be one of the most frustrating fish to target, shutting down as quickly as they came on the bite. They will often mouth baits rather than smash them violently, so braided line is always preferred to allow easy detection of the finest whiting bite. Concentrating efforts around tidal flow is extremely important for our resident fish as they can become somewhat more reserved and picky in their feeding habits due to the drop in water temp. The added bonus of cooler water temps however is that unwanted by-catch also tends to be less. I find an hour or two into the run-out tends to be a prime period, although the run-in can also be just as fruitful. I’ll also generally avoid fishing around the change of tide.
A 2-5kg rod paired with a small 2000 threadline reel is a nice little outfit capable of handling our metro winter whiting. These local fish rarely reach sizes upwards of 40cm, so downsizing tackle will not only allow you to enjoy the fight that these little scrappers have to offer, but it may also catch you more fish.
As far as rigging up goes, standard paternoster rigs tied with 12-15lb fluorocarbon trace will suffice. Cockles or squid strips will account for their fair share of fish, however don’t be afraid to try something different if things aren’t working, with small pilchard chunks, worms and prawns also being very effective bait sources.
So with metro whiting reports in full swing, rather than packing the rods away until summer approaches, make the most of those breaks in the weather and head out in search of the winter King George available right on our very doorstep!