Normally I’d expect to be catching large numbers of whiting along the Mid Wales coast from early September. However the mild weather we’ve experienced right through October with relatively warm sea temperatures seemed to keep the main whiting shoals offshore in deeper water longer than usual with only a few being caught. We had to wait until early November, and then on the big tides, whiting numbers suddenly escalated overnight.
I like to fit in a couple of whiting sessions over the winter. Granted they are not big fish, they run up to a pound or so locally, but they are good fun and it’s normally a bite a cast, so it keeps you busy and constantly catching. There are ways though, you can target the bigger fish.
The smaller fish, while still predatory, tend to be more liberal in their diet and will eat pretty much anything that comes their way. This is why worm baits, which many anglers commonly use, tend to attract the smaller fish. Bigger whiting are a true predator armed with vicious needle like teeth with which they grab and impale their prey. The bigger whiting then are mainly fish eaters and also cannibalistic, so its no surprise to see that fish baits such as mackerel strip, a whole small, or half a normal sized sandeel, prove to be the best bait. Even tipping worm baits with a sliver of mackerel, sandeel or squid can tip the odds in your favour of catching the bigger whiting in the shoal.
Rigs need not be complicated. For short range casting during the flooding tide, the whiting are often less than 50-yards out in the surf, so an easy overhead cast, and a standard 3-hook flapper rig works well. On the out going tide though, the whiting are much further out and you need to really put some power behind the casts and fish at 80-yards or more to maintain contact with the fish as they drop back out to deeper water. For this use a 2-hook clipped down rig. Clipping the baited hooks down streamlines the rig and adds extra yards to the distance cast.
Hook sizes also need to be kept sensibly small. I like a size 2 Aberdeen hook. The long shank helps protect the hook trace line from the teeth of the whiting, plus is big enough to present mackerel strip or sandeel baits neatly when secured with a little bait elastic for casting.
Another good tip is to use 20lb Fluorocarbon for your hook lengths. In the surf the Fluorocarbon is slightly stiffer than mono line and therefore tangles less as the bait is picked up and thrown around by the surf tables. More importantly the Fluorocarbon is a much tougher line and combats the sharp teeth of the whiting better.
I apologize for the quality of the whiting photos I’ve used here, but the night I went for the whiting proved to be a period of torrential pouring rain, the flash from the camera picking out the raindrops. However the whiting couldn’t have cared less, and neither could I, as the fishing was hectic.
I caught the bulk of the fish at just 35-yards out in a light surf, but found the bigger fish at about 50-yards and took several that were close to a pound. All of these on frozen mackerel strip cut about 2-inches long and about a half inch wide, then wrapped with a little bait elastic.
I only fished for about three hours, but had well over 40 whiting in that time, plus dogfish and flounder, which illustrates how busy whiting fishing, can be. If you really want to maximise your catch rate, then you need to have a spare ready baited trace available hung on your rod rest. With a clip link tied to your shock leader, when you bring in a fish, or need to re bait, simply clip off the just retrieved trace, clip on the freshly baited one and recast. You can then deal with any just caught fish and re bait the retrieved trace. It only takes a second! This means you have bait in the water all the time. If you catch fish, remove and release the fish, then re bait the same trace, you will lose at least two minutes or more each cast. Make twenty casts and you gain 40-minutes more fishing time. If you fish two rods, that’s 80-minutes more fishing time, and when the whiting are in numbers that equates to a lot of fish.
They like fairly calm settled weather with calm seas. The rougher the sea, the more catches will drop away. You will catch by day in deeper water, but the best fishing is always at night. Most clean sandy beaches all around the UK will hold whiting, and you can also target them off breakwaters, piers and rock ledges that fall on to clean sand.
The whiting will be with us through until mid to late January or so before they start to thin out, so you have plenty of time to get a few sessions in and catch your share!