King George Whiting have always been present in Northern Tasmania but over the last 15 years a massive explosion of them has occurred in our estuaries and inshore waters. We really have a substantial fishery of these fish now whereas years back they were a bit of a rarity. Tasmania now also boasts some of the biggest King George Whiting in the Nation with 50 plus fish reasonably common and fish as big as 60 plus centimetres a reality for Tasmanian anglers.
About five years back I moved from home on the shore of my beloved Tamar River Estuary to the seaside village of Bridport. I am no stranger to fishing at Bridport, I have spent the last 3 decades chasing big snapper there but my fishing was limited to that when I went there. Moving there gave me the opportunity not only to target more on big Reds in the area but also to target Sea Trout, Bream and of course King George Whiting. After sourcing some local knowledge from recreational divers in the area I had a fair idea where to start look for the big Ting. I had caught plenty in the Tamar but not out of Bridport so I was pretty excited about a new challenge.
The 2019 snapper season at Bridport was the best Snapper season I have ever seen, both in numbers and some really nice fish turning up to 8.5 kg. I had also recently been able to try some out Reedy’s Rigs Snapper Ultra Rig and 187 suicide hooks on some of the local Reds. I was very impressed with the rigs and hooks, they are super sharp, very strong and the points last a very long period. Brett Reed of Reedy’s Rigs also sent me over some of the Tinganoster Whiting Rigs and wide gap hooks to try on the local Whiting.
One day I gave the Snapper a break and decided to have a crack at the local whiting at Bridport. It was a lovely December Day so I headed to the local seagrass beds along the coast from Bridport. I had caught some fresh squid on the way. I anchored up in a place we had seen the whiting the week before while snorkelling in the area. My young son Sam was swimming on a super hot day while we were out fishing and saw some Monster Ting in this area.
I baited up my Tinganoster and cast in. It was a bit quiet after the first fifteen minutes so I moved up shore to the next sand hole to try. I was fishing in about 4 meters of water. I waited another ten minutes. I started to get a sharp fast bite which certainly looked like the right species. The rod buckled over and I was on to my first Bridport KGW. By the way the fish was playing up, I knew I had a larger model on as well! After a few short runs the big whiting gave up and lay on the surface waiting to be netted. I scooped him up with my snapper net and found that I had caught the biggest King George Whiting I have ever seen. I was very excited, first trip and I had caught a beast which was far bigger than all the Whiting I had caught in the Tamar. I ran the measuring tape over him and he went 55 cm.
Soon after that my second rod went off with a familiar bite. Another Whiting and another good one too ! He started screaming off line of my little reel. I finally got him close enough to net. Another beautiful KGW at 54 cm. The bite started getting a bit ridiculous. Whiting were coming in every few minutes into my boat up to 57 cm. They finally moved on and I bagged out with 5 Whiting (which is the bag limit in Tasmania) over 52cm and up to 57 cm, a pretty impressive haul if I do say myself.
All the whiting where all caught on the Reedy’s Tinganoster Whiting rig. There are three types of hook patterns in the Tinganoster Rigs. There is the wide gap, mutu and long shank. I was using the wide gap this day which is my favourite hook for big Ting. The mutu and long shank I think are better for use smaller baits and for fish up to 45 cm. The wide gap is my favourite Sea Trout hook as well and I feel comfortable using long strip baits on this hook pattern. For the mutu and long shank I use small squid squares, which seems to work well for smaller whiting.
Another memorable trip I had on the Whiting was in September 2020 season. The Fishing Show Hook line and Sinker Fishing Television Show asked me to take them out to try to do a show on Northeast Tasmanian Whiting. During recent weeks before they asked me the fishing had been very good but I am never confident trying to catch a target fish under pressure. The presenters Andrew Hart , Nick Duigan and myself headed out bright and early from Bridport in search of a monster King George Whiting. We anchored up in a likely sand hole which had been producing some good fish during recent trips. We baited up with fresh calamari which I had caught the day before and cast our rods into the beautiful clear ocean water. It did not take long before I started getting a sharp familiar bite. “A Whiting!” I shouted excitedly! I hooked the fish while Andrew started filming. After the short fight, a stonker of a KGW came into sight. I gently led him to the landing net that Nick held. He scooped him up and we all burst into a cheer. The pressure of catching a big Whiting on film was off. We had done it! We measured the fish and he went a whopping 57cm.After the first catch a hot bite started up with stonker whiting coming into the boat every few minutes. They measured between 50 and 57 cm. The show was a total success. All the boxes where ticked. The whiting were all taken on Reedy’s Tinganoster rigs with the wide gap hooks in them. I really like the wide gaps. I think is probably the best hook style for the bigger fish and bigger baits.
Here are few good tips for successful Whiting fishing.
- Firstly, Move About. Whiting are like many Species which move about with the tide, foraging the bottom for food, so the best method is to give a spot no more than 30 minutes, then pull up anchor an try another likely spot nearby. Do this until you eventually find them.
- Don’t Burley. Many people get shocked when I tell them I don’t burley for Snapper and Whiting. Whiting have a super sense of smell and your bait is enough scent to lure them into the area. If you start to burley, you will more than likely attract unwanted species into the area which will make it hard get to the whiting. There are always exceptions to every rule through, it depends a lot where you are fishing.
- Keep baits big to target the bigger fish. Although whiting are known to have small mouths, once they get to a certain size they can swallow a bait meant for a snapper or a Gummy Shark. Fish over 50cm will take a fish fillet or a big squid strip readily.
- Don’t be scared to fish shallow. There are no rules to how shallow you can fish for King George. 1m of water is still plenty of water to catch them in. Especially if it has the right weedy bottom. They also can be in this depth during daylight hours.
- You don’t need expensive tackle to chase whiting successfully. A 7 foot light spinning rod, matched with a 2000 size spinning reel is ideal. You could pick up a combo for under $50 from your local store that will do the job nicely. I use 4 kg mono fishing line for Whiting.
- Try to be quiet when anchor a spot and don’t drive over where you are fishing. The best way is to position your boat upstream or upwind from you chosen spot and turn your motor off and drift onto your mark and anchor quietly. Or if you are lucky enough to own an electric motor with GPS Spot Lock, this will work even better because you won’t have to use your noisy anchor.
- Although KGW will accept frozen bait, fresh bait is definitely better if you have the time to catch your own bait before your trip. Fresh Calamari is my favourite bait but I also use green prawns and bass yabbies at times.
- Whiting can bite at any stage of the tide. They often move through an area at the same stage of the tide each day. A bit of local knowledge goes a long way when chasing them.
- Definitely Reedy’s Tinganoster Whiting rigs are the go for big King George Whiting. Also try a Reedy’s Whiting Whisperer Wide Gap hook on a western port style rig. This work really well when using big baits in the current. If the whiting are smaller in your area try the Reedy’s Rigs Tinganoster in the Mutu hook. Use a small square of calamari instead of a long strip. And don’t strike at the fish, let the Whiting hook himself before you pick the rod up. It is best to fish your rods in Snapper Rack style rod holders. Your rod should be nearly horizontal and easy to get out of the holder with give the fish any slack line.
If you would like to view some red hot Tasmanian Whiting Fishing have a look at my Fishing Channel on YouTube and check out Northeast Tasmanian Mega Whiting. King George Whiting are definitely one of my favourite fish to catch and eat and are well worth the time and effort of chasing them. I hope this little article has helped encourage you to get the boat out and go and catch a feed of the best eating fish around.Tight lines
BY Damon Sherriff.