Whiting are the tasty little speedsters of South East Queensland’s shallow surf gutters and beaches. But to catch the bigger sizes known as ‘elbow slappers’, you need to head away from the surf and head to the estuaries.
The description ‘elbow slapper’ comes from when you catch a good sized whiting. When you grab the fish around the head to remove the hook, the tail slaps against your elbow. For most of us this span is about 30-35cm, so any whiting around that size and bigger most certainly fits the nickname.
There are four reasonably accessible spots in South East Queensland – the Maroochy and Noosa Rivers on the Sunshine Coast and the Nerang and Coomera Rivers on the Gold Coast. All four have good sandy bottoms throughout most of the lower reaches, plus deep holes, channels and sandbanks. For most of the time they also have clean clear water, particularly on the top half of the tide. You will also find good whiting in areas such as Curramudi Lakes, Caloundra, Jumpinpin and the Broadwater.
Look for a good size sand bank next to deeper water that ends up with a good flow of water over it on the top half of the tide. The bank doesn’t need to be exposed at low tide and it is preferable if it has yabby banks and plenty of melon holes or undulations over it from the fast flowing water.This stirs up plenty of food for fish and provides those little holes to sit in. The fish need a reason to come up onto the bank and the main reason is food.
These days, all of these waters have a lot of daytime boat traffic—especially during weekends—so low light periods of dawn, dusk and during the night are the best times to fish. Big whiting do not like moving onto the clear shallows if there is a lot of noise and activity.
As the tide makes, whiting move from the deeper water up over the shallows with the tide.
On the run out tide, you will still catch them over the bank but the best bite is when they are coming up to feed. Where the sand bank drops off into the deeper water is the place to try as the tide drops further; this is where they wait for food to come to them.
Dig your own live worms for bait, whether they be blood worms, rock worms or wrigglers. The bigger whiting go hard, so let them go on that first run and then expect them to go at it again as you get them close to the boat or shore. You will find the fish come in waves and you’ll catch a couple in a short period of time, then none for a while. This is why it’s always good to have a few rods out.