Whiting are not often considered a popular sport fish to target, but many anglers actually love fishing them (and eating them). Though the name whiting can be a little misleading, considering there are a few different species that you may hear referred to as whiting, like the southern kingfish, gulf kingfish, and kingcroaker. Whichever whiting you are targeting, this guide will help you learn all there is to know about catching them.
Where to Catch Whiting
In the U.S. they are most popularly fished along the Florida coast in the surf. They tend to stay in troughs in waters that are less than 6 feet deep. Look for them in channels created by waves crashing into sandbars. Another great spot to fish for them is behind breaking waves, where they tend to wait for their food to be uncovered by the incoming waves. You can also look for them near inlets. Any inlet with a heavy supply of crab or shrimp along the coast is a good spot to catch whiting.
Gulf Kingfish (whiting) have silver bodies with brown dorsal fin tips. They have a barbel on the lower jaw, and the scales on their lower body are smaller than the scale on the upper body. They can reach sizes up to 18 inches, but your average whiting will be around 10 to 12 inches.
Whiting Tackle Recommendations
Fishing Rods and Reels
Whiting are not a very large species, so you don’t need heavy gear when fishing them. But since most fishing is done in the surf, windy days will call for different gear. On calmer days on the beach a medium or light spinning rod is all you really need.
When the weather is a little bit rougher inshore, a conventional rod and reel is probably your best option, because this will allow you to cast easier when the wind wants to fight you.
Baits and Lures
Jigs worked along the bottom work well for catching whiting. Tip them with small strips of squid or shrimp.
Fishing with flies can also work. You want a fly that mimics what they are already eating, so a good sand flea pattern works well.
Many anglers swear by clam as the best bait for whitefish. It does work very well, but it’s always best to have a variety of options with you, just in case.
In many areas whiting are lurking just past the waves waiting for sand fleas to be uncovered for feeding. Using sand fleas is a good choice when you’re fishing areas where they are the common forage.
Crustaceans are also a good choice. Shrimp or crab are always good options.
If you’re fishing with jigs you may want to tip your jig with squid strips. Squid is also good when using a multi-hook fishing rig.
For fishing the surf for whiting the most commonly used rigs are the fish finder rig and dropper loop rig. If you’re interested in learning to tie these rigs, check out the resources I linked to. Most anglers will use a multi-hook setup on their rig. You can also experiment with baits by placing different baits on each hook. Fish your rig in the trough along the bottom and you’ll very likely get some action.
Braided line with a 10-15 lb test fluorocarbon or monofilament leader is a good choice.
Whiting don’t have very large mouths so smaller circle hooks are recommended. Size 2 to 2/0 can be used.
Fishing Tips and Techniques
Experiment with Troughs
The whiting will most often be caught in the troughs. There will be several troughs along the beach, so don’t get caught spending all your time in just one. If the fish aren’t biting, experiment placing your bait in different troughs until you find the one the fish are holding in. Usually they will be in the deeper troughs, but it still is good to test a few for bites as you work your way along the beach.
Read the Beach
Locating the trough can be challenging if you are a new angler. You want to look for sections of the beach that have two sets of breaking waves. One set will break along the beach. The second wave break ends up a little bit offshore. You want to fish the area in between these two areas. This is the trough, where you will find the whiting.
Follow the Migrations
If you don’t fish at the right time for the area you are in, you are not gonna have much success. Whiting migrate south for the winter and north for the summer. So if you’re in Southern Florida, winter is a great time to fish. If you’re in Northern Florida, summer is your best time to catch whiting.