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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saltwater Fishing Tips: Whiting

Photo: My grandson with a whiting (left) and a spotted seatrout.

Searching for saltwater fishing tips? Don’t overlook the southern kingfish or “kingcroaker,” commonly called “whiting.” These saltwater fish are often overlooked by serious anglers, even though they’re easy to catch and are delicious on the table. Sure, it’s true that whiting don’t achieve the size of reds, and they don’t provide a thrilling battle, but they’re great on the table, and on light tackle, their short runs can be exciting. Also, whiting will often be biting like crazy when other saltwater fish species have lockjaw.

Most of the whiting you catch will probably weigh a half-pound or less, but if you’re lucky, you’ll catch some larger individuals, often called “bull whiting.” These fish can weigh more than a pound, so it’s possible to fillet them. Anyway, what whiting lack in size, they often make up for in number. I’ve fished from piers in Georgia and Florida at night when I’ve hauled in whiting as fast as I could reel them in and re-bait. In fact, I often caught them two at a time, using a double-rigged line. Several times when I was fishing from a pier that had lights that reflected in the water, I’ve seen schools of these saltwater fish congregating around the lights.

Whiting are perfect for beginning saltwater anglers and for kids. Any light rod-and-reel combo will serve as appropriate fishing gear. For bait, try fresh dead shrimp, sand fleas, or cut bait. Don’t put too much bait on your hook. I like to use ½ shrimp when saltwater fishing for whiting. Use enough weight to keep the bait near the bottom, where the whiting are searching for food.

I’ve caught whiting at different depths, so I suggest fishing at different levels until you find the fish. You might want to try the surf zone first – the spot where the waves are breaking and churning up the debris and bits of food on the bottom. If you don’t get any bites, gradually move your bait to deeper water.

Florida places no size limit or bag limit on whiting. When they’re biting, it won’t take long to fill a plastic zip-loc bag with whiting fillets – one from each side of the fish. In my opinion, the fish are best cooked by frying. Just dip the fillets in buttermilk or in an egg wash and coat them in flour, pancake mix, or cornmeal.