I really love this style of fishing because it is so simple and yet so rewarding. It’s a great way to get, what is in my opinion, one of the best eating fish you can get from an estuary.
All you need is a selection of surfaces lures in a backpack, sling bag or waist bag, a rod and your 2 feet and away you go. I especially like to do this in the warmer months and with the right protection from the sun this a great way to keep cool on a hot day.
There’s nothing quite like hooking decent size whiting as they take a surface lure off the top and go burning off over the sand flats. These fish are often referred to the poor man’s Bonefish and put up a pretty good account for themselves.
When and where
The warmer months are the go, with fish being more active and willing to feed off the surface. Mid Spring through to Autumn being my preferred times, I seem to find a slightly better class of fish in the back end of the season.
Lakes and rivers are the places to look if you want to catch whiting on poppers in over shallow flats. These have everything from mud, sand and broken sand weed and rock patches. I often start the search of a new system on Google earth to find a suitable area. Then I will generally start on a flat close to the entrance of Ocean and work my way further up the system. Some places are better than others and will have fish on most flats through out the entire system, where as others will only have good numbers close to the front. It’s all a bit of trial and error.
You can do this from the shore however I do prefer to get in and get wet. Usually, all the action happens in ankle to knee deep water.
Sand flats are the go-to and the best place to start as they are usually much easier to access with a lot less nasties on the bottom. With saying that while you can go bare foot, I would recommend some kind of foot wear, whether it be a dedicated pair of aqua shoes or a pair of old joggers.
Water between literally almost zero to no more than 6 feet is great place to start. They can be caught over deeper water but these depths a far more suited for surface fishing.
Morning and evening are ideal and I really like to fish a rising tide for whiting. As the fish come up with the tide and forage over the freshly flooded ground. You can catch whiting in completely glassed out calm conditions in the middle of the day but for me 3 things will make for a great session on whiting.
1 is an early morning, late evening or patchy cloud
2 A wind ripple to mild windy conditions.
3 A rising tide
I’m not saying they can’t be caught outside these conditions but they will give you the best chance and If I had to pick only one variable to be in my favour, it would be tide. Tide is the key success, anywhere that has noticeable tidal influence, as the fish follow the tide over the flats.
Whiting can be extremely hard to spot but at times they will give themselves away by rolling on the sand giving off a flash.
Another way to find them is by not by looking for the fish at all, I suppose this sounds a little strange but hear me out…. By using a good set of Polarised sunglasses look for their shadows and once you see the shadow you will be able to see the fish.
And remember as you are wading the flats on a rising that the whiting may push up between you and the shore line so don’t always be casting to the deeper water fire a few off back at the bank.
I like a very light rod for whiting fishing it needs to be at least 7 foot or longer. This allows for long casts which helps to soak up the lunges and runs over shallow flats. I’ve been using the Samurai reaction 7’ 2 to 4lb, Samurai reaction 7’4” 2 to 6lb and the Atomic Arrowz 7’ 1 to 5lb.
I use a good quality thin diameter braid either out of the Unitika or Majorcraft stable. Now as for the leader, while any will do, I prefer to use around 5 feet of 10 or 6 lb Unitika trout clear. This isn’t a fluorocarbon; it is actually a very clear monofilament line. The fluro is dense and sinks whereas mono doesn’t sink easily. This helps keep the lure from being dragged under by the leader and upset the action of lure and the use of a heavier line (6lb to 10lb) helps it stay on top.
It’s a good idea to have a glove or rag handy to deal with other species like Flathead which can be a bi-catch. They can be a bit tricky in knee deep water and yes they will happily feed of the top.
It seems for many years the humble popper has taken a bit back seat but I believe you’d be mad not have a selection of them in surface box and they don’t come better than the Atomic pop 50. This lure has subtle cupped face giving a smaller bloop and with its body design it also lends its self to walking the dog as well, making it very versatile.
Some days when the fish aren’t quite on the job it can be a good idea to change out the rear treble to assist hooks. I use the Atomic trick bitz ones that are built on Gamakatsu hooks, these can be the difference between a good session and great session on whiting
Where possible try and fish with the wind at your back this will assist with long cast to cover as much area as possible. With each cast and keep moving to cover fresh ground every few casts.
Once you have made your cast, when the lure lands give the rod tip either horizontal short twitches or vertical short twitches whilst winding up the slack each time and giving the a continual bloop, bloop, bloop, bloop action.
It may take a couple of casts to work out the retrieve speed, some days it might need to be slower some days quicker.
The trick with whiting is to watch your lure and look for the tell-tale bow wave being pushed up behind it. What to do from here is either maintain the same speed or go a little quicker BUT you never pause the lure for whiting. They will lose interest quicker than you can blink.
I hope that there’s something in here that will help you land a few Whiting.