Sea Fishing: Whiting, Bait, Tackle and Fishing Method Tips
As its name suggests, the whiting (Merlangus merlangus) is a member of thefamily, although it lacks the barbule of the cod. It is easily recognizable by the dark spot behind its pectoral fin. It is a most prolific fish, which is to the sea angler what the roach is to the freshwater fisherman. During the autumn and winter months whiting can provide fair sport for the shore angler.
Judged against other sea fish whiting are not strong fighters. The good thing about them is that they often provide sport when other fish are inactive. They have often turned out to be face-savers in sea angling competitions from beach or pier and have made the bag for a number of prize-winners.
Whiting are at their largest and most numerous on the east coast, where they are caught in numbers by both beach and pier anglers. On the south and west coasts, inshore whiting are listed as small — up to 150 g (6 oz) — but I do not think this is correct. At times whiting are taken in the Bristol Channel well above the 500 g (1 lb) mark.
Baits vary according to locality, but the most generally used are worms, mussels, and strips of fish. Lugworm in particular will readily take fish at times. Sprats, whole if small, part if large, are a deadly bait particularly in the late part of the year.
Use the lightest tackle possible depending on strength of tide and size of weight needed. Hooks should be on the small side, in the region of size 3 or 4. Some anglers use what one could term freshwater tackle — light rod, reel, and a 3-3.2 kg (6-7 lb) line. This provides good sport; the only trouble with it is that at times something bigger comes along, more than the gear in use will handle, and bang goes the lot.
gear is the one most commonly used, whether from boat, pier, or shore.
Whiting seem to come on all of a sudden. Often, for a time there is little doing and then all at once rod tips begin to jerk all along the line. Sport is often best around dusk, but it can continue after dark. Most bites seem to come near the top of the tide and continue for a time after the turn. But this varies with locality. In the Burnham-on-Sea area of the Bristol Channel, for instance, most bites occur on the out-going tide. So it is wise to check up locally.
Bites are sharp and whiting are noted for stripping the bait off the hook. I have seen anglers have dozens of bites and yet only hook the odd fish. Usually they have had the rod at rest, and by the time they get to it both bait and whiting have gone. It is safer to hold the rod, feel the bite, and strike quickly. As with roach fishing, you have to be quick, or it is too late.
Small ones are often used as bait for other fish.
Whiting are, of course, good eating, and a catch of fair-sized specimens is a most welcome addition to the larder.