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Name

Whiting (Merlangius merlangus)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught whiting can weigh 1.4 Kg (3 lbs) or more. The average whiting weighs around 0.5 Kg (1 lb).

IUCN Status

LC – Least Concern

Appearance

The whiting has a large and pointed head, its upper jaw extends slightly further than the lower and it can have a very small barbel on its chin. It has a slim body which is gold-green on the back and silver-white on the sides with a silver underbelly, it also has three dorsal fins, two anal fins and a characteristic black spot close to the base of each pectoral fin. In its mouth are small but sharp teeth and it also has a high lateral line which bends towards its head.

Warning: Bites from whiting are known to result in infections – handle with care!

So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

Whiting are great to catch because they can be caught using a wide range of baits. Ragworm, lugworm, shellfish, shrimps, prawns, sandeels, hermit crab and strips of fresh fish such as herring, mackerel, sprat, pilchard and whiting can all be used to catch whiting.

Further to this, artificial baits such as small pirks either baited or unbaited can be used to catch whiting.

Seasons

Whiting arrives inshore from September and October, where they stay close to the shore throughout November, December, January, and February. From March and April they move into deeper offshore waters where they can still be caught.

Favourite Feeding Places

Whiting like to feed on or very close to the bottom of sand/mud or shell-grit seabed and will also feed at the mid-water level over rough, rocky ground.

Best Locations

Whiting can be caught across all British waters.

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Best rig for catching whiting

Shore Fishing

A two hook paternoster rig or a three hook paternoster rig are advised when fishing for whiting from the shore.

Two Hook Paternoster Rig

This is a flexible rig which allows you to present two baited hooks above the seabed, with two different hookbaits being able to be used should you desire. Beach casting anglers reduce seabed wear and tear on the knot by clipping a small split ring onto the weight’s “eye” and tying line to the split ring. Alternatively, the line can be tied straight to the weight. 3 way swivels can be used instead of the blood loops. The distances between the weight, 1st blood loop, 2nd blood loop and top swivel/or split ring, can vary but each should generally be 460 mm (1½ ft). Similarly, the distance between hook and blood loop can vary but should be about 200 mm (8 inches).

Three Hook Paternoster Rig

This rig allows you to present three hooks and baits above the seabed at various depths. Because you have three hooks, you can therefore use three different baits, giving you a further advantage. The distance between each blood loop can vary, but should generally be at least 460 mm (1½ ft) and the lines connecting hooks to blood loops should be at least 200 mm (8 inches).

Boat Fishing

If fishing for whiting from a boat, a two hook paternoster rig, two boom paternoster rig or three hook paternoster rig are recommended.

Two Hook Paternoster Rig

This is a flexible rig which allows you to present two baited hooks above the seabed, with two different hookbaits being able to be used should you desire. Beach casting anglers reduce seabed wear and tear on the knot by clipping a small split ring onto the weight’s “eye” and tying line to the split ring. Alternatively, the line can be tied straight to the weight. 3 way swivels can be used instead of the blood loops. The distances between the weight, 1st blood loop, 2nd blood loop and top swivel/or split ring, can vary but each should generally be 460 mm (1½ ft). Similarly, the distance between hook and blood loop can vary but should be about 200 mm (8 inches).

Two Boom Paternoster Rig

The two boom paternoster rig allows you to present two baited hooks above the seabed and is free to move with the current. The presence of plastic booms removes the possibility of lines tangling and encourages vigorous movement of the baits in a current. Further to this, you can use two different baits at once. The distance between weight and boom can vary, but each spacing should generally be at least 460 mm (1½ ft) and the hooks should each be at least 200 mm (8 inches) from the booms.

Three Hook Paternoster Rig

This rig allows you to present three hooks and baits above the seabed at various depths. Because you have three hooks, you can therefore use three different baits, giving you a further advantage. The distance between each blood loop can vary, but should generally be at least 460 mm (1½ ft) and the lines connecting hooks to blood loops should be at least 200 mm (8 inches).

Top tips

  1. Whiting are most active soon after dusk, particularly on colder nights when the sea is calm and continue feeding well into the night.
  2. Once you’ve hooked one whiting, swiftly re-bait and cast back out, doing this in a quick and methodical manner will allow you fill up your freezer with tasty fish faster than you’d think!