Whenever the fishing gets slow, I head to the surf for whiting.
So, the other day I grabbed a rod and a five-gallon bucket and headed to the beach. Whiting are the most dependable fish in our area and are certainly one of the best eating. I have been catching them for more than 60 years having begun as a kid in the Vermillion Bay of Southwestern Louisiana.
Whiting are easy to catch and no great skill is required. Still, as it is with other species, there are things you can do to improve your results. The biggest complaint I hear is they are just too small. True, whiting only get up to about 18 inches in length and most caught are less than 10 inches, but even the small ones can be the basis for a nice meal. When fishing for whiting, one rule I live by is fish close-in for the small ones and farther out for the large.
When I arrived at the beach, I walked until I found a good run out. That is a place where the water from the retreating waves is funneled into a narrow channel. That will create a current that dislodges sand fleas and other tasty morsels that whiting love to eat. I like to set up right along side such a place.
Once I found it I sunk a sand spike into the beach and made a cast. My rod was a medium-action, eight-footer with a number 30 Daiwa reel spooled with 15-pound mono. My weight was a one ounce pyramid sinker and I used a small 1/0 hook. I never use a circle hook for whiting and one of the biggest mistakes for beginners is to use any large hook. You won't catch many whiting with a big old hook.
The dead shrimp I brought along were small, but I still used only a half one. You don't need a lot of bait for whiting and never fish with mullet or cut bait of any kind.
I had just set down on the bucket when the rod tip began to wiggle. Sure enough I had a small whiting of about seven inches. For the next cast I waded out about 20 feet and tried for deeper water. I lost a couple baits to nibblers and then was on, but my catch turned out to be a catfish. The occasional whisker fish is the price you pay for fishing the surf with natural bait.
I made a pretty good cast and took a seat. I always bring along a pad and pen to pass the slow times, but didn't have to wait long for the next bite. The rod began jerking violently in the rod holder and I was on with a pretty good fish.
As I reeled my prey through the shallow surf, I could see it was indeed a whiting, but it had splotches of black along both sides. Most whiting are completely white or silver, but it was not the first pinto whiting I had seen. It was a good fish at just over 13 inches.
As the outgoing tide slowed, so did the bite, but by then I had put six in the bucket in just over two hours. Those six whiting yielded a tasty dinner for my wife and I, and I was left to wonder why I don't go after whiting more often?
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.