Scott’s Species — Sand whiting, great fun and easily accessible for the whole family

Sand whiting

Sillago vittata

Eating: 4.5 stars

ID – Narrow bars of brown spots across the back.

The ubiquitous sand whiting. Rarely the target of a day’s fishing, but prolific, fun to catch and fantastic eating, as well as decent bait.

Actually officially known as western school whiting as we don’t get true sandies in WA, they are a staple of WA fishing despite their low profile. They don’t get the love of their larger King George and yellowfin relatives, but are still an important fish in our waters.

I have fond memories of some fun trips off the northern suburbs of Perth a few years ago, in a friend’s boat, drifting in 10-20m of water and catching a magnificent feed of sand whiting (along with the odd goatfish and many tiny little flatties that were very spiky!).

Larger sand whiting passing the 30cm mark tend to be caught in slightly deeper water, with small strips of squid on paternoster rigs working best.

A simple paternoster rig with a heavy enough sinker to get to the bottom and a couple of small hooks was all that was needed, along with some little pieces of squid for bait. However, their main food source is actually small crustaceans. Other bait options include coral prawn and whitebait. The durability of squid on the hook takes some beating though and that means you are not baiting up again every few moments.

We caught loads of sandies this way, often catching multiple fish at a time, and the fillets were beautiful, especially when you got fish around the 30cm mark. Sandies grow to about 35cm, and certainly get quite plump at that size. Their delicate white flesh is a treat on the plate.

Of course, sandies aren’t just an offshore species either and any beach angler who has wet a line in the surf as far north as Geraldton has caught them. Sometimes the little ones are in plague proportions right at your feet, picking at baits meant for much bigger fare.

Sand whiting are a great species to target for kids off the beaches and via boating, as seen on the left at Kalbarri’s Kids Whiting Competition and on the right, with three-year-old Zachary Thake catching his very first fish.

A little flick rod and small baits can mean some great fun while waiting for the bigger fish to bite. It’s especially enjoyable fishing for kids, as there is no need for long casts or heavy tackle. Not to mention that fresh sandies are an ideal bait for bigger surf predators such as mulloway, tailor and salmon.

It does seem that the better class of sandies are usually in that slightly deeper water though. We get some really nice ones in Albany’s King George Sound, and the shipping channel into Cockburn Sound is noted for them.

Drifting likely ground is a productive approach and you will find patches of fish, but you could also anchor once you encounter some action. At the end of the day, no one in the house will complain if you return with a feed of fresh sand whiting!

Recfishwest receives great feedback from fishing communities on proposed marine parks

One of the fishing community’s greatest challenges is maintaining access to high-quality fishing experiences across Western Australia.  

Be it from industrial development, the deterioration and subsequent closing of jetties and platforms, or marine park zones that prohibit fishing, recreational fishers face a constant uphill battle in being able to access the experiences we all love and cherish. 

In the case of marine parks, Recfishwest has been at the coalface this year as we advocate strongly for a fair and reasonable outcome for fishers in two marine parks currently going through the consultation process.  

One of these parks – The Marmion Marine Park – is currently located between Trigg and Ocean Reef and has been in place since 1987. As part of a 2019 commitment, the State Government announced in February plans to extend the marine park further north from Trigg up to Two Rocks.   

Another new marine park is also being proposed on the south coast, between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border.  

In order to assist recfishers having their say, Recfishwest have directly engaged fishers along the south coast and metropolitan regions, as well as undertaking two online surveys, aimed at highlighting the most important areas for recreational fishing in both areas covered by the proposed parks.  

Recfishers were surveyed on numerous questions such as asking them to highlight specific fishing spots they enjoy in these areas, how often they fish, the species they target and what was most important to their fishing experiences, such as accessibility, health benefits and safety.  

Hundreds of thousands of people fish between Trigg and Two Rocks (left) and along our southern coast between Bremer Bay and the South Australian border (right).

Thanks to the great survey feedback provided from 761 fishers across both areas, Recfishwest has been advocating to decision-makers to ensure recfishing values are understood throughout the planning process.   

We are continuing to meet with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and traditional owners to discuss what can be achieved in these marine parks when recfishing values are applied. 

While marine parks are not a fisheries management tool, it is crucial that any zoning type that impacts on recreational fishing access must be justified by evidence, including how recreational fishing impacts upon the key values being protected.   

Our surveys and meetings conducted in these areas underline the importance of recreational fishers being provided with an understanding around the process and rationale used to develop different zone types.  

Extensive consultation processes are underway, in which Recfishwest is directly involved. Thanks to the feedback gathered below, Recfishwest will be in a stronger position to ensure recfishing values are well understood prior to draft marine park plans being released next year.   

The release of these plans will provide further opportunity for fishers to put forward their point of view when it will again be important for the fishing community to have its collective say. 

Marmion Marine Park Survey Findings

  • 334 respondents identified 459 specific fishing areas important to them. 
  • Combinations of fishing types were favoured by some, but the survey was dominated by solely dedicated shore or boat-based fishers. 
  • Most important shore-based locations were aligned with access points, such as marinas and carparks. 
  • Most important boat-based locations include Hillarys to Mindarie, capturing locations such as Three-Mile Reef and Staggie Reef.  
A heat map from our survey showing the most popular fishing spots within the proposed Marmion Marine Park extension.

South Coast Marine Park Survey Findings

  • 427 responses from mostly shore-based fishers only (169), closely followed by shore-based and boat-based fishers (147). 
  • 110 respondents fished at least 20 days per year or more.  
  • The majority of survey respondents fished between Bremer Bay and Cape Arid. 
  • Eastern sections of proposed marine parks were fished less due to limited boat launching opportunities but were still rated incredibly important for wilderness fishing experiences. 
A heat map from our South Coast Marine Park survey, showing the highest fishing activity between Bremer Bay and Cape Arid (top section), with less fishing occurring in the eastern region (bottom section).

Most important factors to fishers across both proposed areas 

  • Easy accessibility to their favourite fishing spots, including boat ramps, four-wheel-drive tracks and launching sites. 
  • Spending quality time with friends and family. 
  • Being able to combine camping opportunities with fishing experiences.  
  • The mental and physical health benefits that fishing provides.  
  • Fishing safety.

Thanks to everyone involved with the fantastic feedback gathered above.  

We will keep you updated on the planning processes for these marine parks and will ensure they are underpinned by peer-reviewed science and feedback from public consultation to improve recreational fishing experiences in these areas with no net loss of amenity.  

Click here to read our position on marine parks  

 

Keep the Sand Between Your Toes

The time is near! The salmon are rounding the bend of the South-West and heading your way!

Fishing from the beach gives you great access to the big Salmon schools that will make their way along the coast! Photo courtesy of Western Angler.

With the annual salmon migration around the West Australia Coast upon us and the Easter long weekend fast approaching, fishers can go into over drive and go to all extremes to target these fish, often overlooking simple steps to ensure a safe return at the end of the day.

‘Keep the sand between your toes’ as you round up the family and dog, head to a nearby beach and give it a shot at catching these fantastic sport fish.

Sunset beach fishing with the family! Photo credit: Tony Tropiano

Being part of a community of fishers on the beach, experiencing world class fishing whilst spending it with our families is part of our culture and although salmon are a superb sports fish, it’s not worth putting your life at risk when the salmon turn up Recfishwest Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Rowland says.

“With countless locations suitable for beach fishing along our coast, offering a variety of experiences depending on the adventure you seek, there’s no excuse to not put personal safety at the forefront of your mind,” Andrew said.

As we’ve seen in previous years, Salmon move in large schools and often track close to shore, hiding in the gutters along the beach awaiting smaller prey, making them accessible from our beaches for fishers of varying abilities and ages. It’s a great way to introduce youngsters to the sport, point out the silver flashes as they dart past and wait for the rod to buckle over.

Fishing is an experience in itself, whether you catch and keep your fish, or release them after the fight, just to be able to bring your fish onto the sand, hear the cheers from fellow fishers and take some snaps with the kids, makes for a memorable outing with the family. The great thing is, if the fish are there, often given away by birds flying over as they pick up remaining bait fish and fish hitting the surface as the salmon force their prey to the top; they are caught using just about any method! Baits, lures, fly’s, you name it, they’ll chase it.

For those seeking the action, the popular spots to fish are along the beaches and headlands of the south western coasts. The sheltered bays around Dunsborough are famous for their salmon fishing as the schools pass through, with Bunker Bay and Rocky Point the most consistent locations. Along the south coast, the mouth of the Warren River, Windy Harbour, Parry’s Beach, Bornholm, Nanarup, Cheynes Beach, Bremer Bay, Reef Beach and Fosters Beach are all fine salmon fishing locations.

Family Salmon Fishing from World Class Beaches! Photo credit: Tony Tropiano

If you want to let those tyres down on your 4wd, White Hills to Preston beach area, Cheynes Beach and Parry’s Beach are popular spots and there will be fish between the capes and Hamelin Bay, making it a great spot to check into the camp grounds nearby and spend the weekend with the kids. Sometimes you’ll find some of these spots quite secluded offering privacy, relaxation and the sense of ‘the perfect getaway’ for some. What more could you want then to drive along a beach, set up the camp chairs, stick a rod in a holder and wait for the school to arrive with great company.

If Salmon isn’t your thing, majority of these beaches also produce Skippy, Whiting, Herring, Samson fish, Bonito and more. Alternatively the rivers on the south coast can offer superb bream fishing, where you’ll find Herring, Skippy, whiting and Squid waiting for a lure to pass by in the estuaries.

Where ever you are and whatever you are targeting, make sure you speak to your local tackle store before heading out, to find a safe beach near you where you can target fantastic fish like Salmon.

Not knowing your surroundings can make it unsafe but also unenjoyable, so please check the weather, read the safety/warning signs, keep an eye out for potential hazards, wear appropriate clothing/footwear and always tell someone y our plans.

Still haven’t arranged your accommodation for this weekend yet? We’ve got you covered! Join us at the annual ‘Great Salmon Campout Event’ for the 24-15th March with offers the fishing weekend getaway that you need without the hassle of having to arrange it yourself.

Recfishwest offer the perfect timing and location to learn how to catch Salmon all jammed into one awesome weekend, where you don’t have to think! Accommodation at Cheynes Beach Caravan Park is inclusive with plenty of activities on offer to keep you and the family busy.

We know that fishing offers many benefits to us both mentally and physically, so why not throw the reef shoes in the car and head down for a cast. Registrations are filling up so please get in quick!

For those heading to Albany for the Easter Weekend, head into your local tackle stores to find our map of safe beach fishing locations, Salmon fishing tips and catch care tips. Free loan life jackets are also available from these stores.

Want to know our top 3 salmon lure picks?  Find them here.

Bait fishing your preferred option? Read about salmon rigs and techniques  here.

To keep up to date where the fish are biting, sign up for our FREE fishing reports here.

This is a Fishing Safety Message brought to you by Fish and Survive!

Heading to Albany this Easter? we’ve put together some Salmon fishing locations for you to try!

 

Recfishwest’s top lure picks for beach fishing for salmon

Catching salmon from world class beaches is one of the most iconic WA fishing activities you and your family can have. Launching a lure into a huge school of salmon only 30 metres from the beach gives every fisher, novice or pro, a tremendous thrill and one which never seems to gets old.

A salmon spotted swimming through a wave well within casting range from the beach. (Photo courtesy of Tony Tropiano).

Check out how easy it is to catch a salmon from the beach, click here.

Lure fishing for salmon on world class West Australian beaches has many great benefits:

  • No need for stinky bait and cheaper than buying bait all the time
  • You can cast further and be amongst the action by putting your lure in the zone
  • Adds to the ‘sportfishing’ element
  • Great way to get the kids into lure fishing
  • No skill needed in regards to lure movement or techniques
  • Great method for catch and release fishing

So with that in mind, we’ve come up with the top salmon lures you and your family must have this season.

Salmon Lure Criteria:

  • Castability: (beach casting only)
  • Price: Affordable for everyone
  • Catchability: Does it actually catch fish

Halco Twisty

Photo credit: Halco Tackle

The curved ends of the famous Twisty create an enticing action like no other metal lure. From a slow wobbling retrieve to a high-speed splashing retrieve, this lure is truly versatile. The Twisty Chrome has an incredibly realistic baitfish profile that has proven itself in both salt and freshwater.

Castability: 4/5
Price: 5/5 (approx. $5 – $10)
Catchability: 5/5

Other Species: Tailor, herring, bonito, tuna, trevally, Queenfish, freshwater trout, mackerel

How to fish them: For best results, vary speed and angle of retrieve, and choose different colours to match the available baitfish in the area. The Twisty Chrome comes in a range of weights.  Constructed with a shiny chrome body, anglers have the choice of either a chrome, gold, green, or red holographic variety in a weight from 1.5g up to 70g.

Richter Plug

Photo credit: Richter Lures

The Richter Plug is a simple yet effective lure that is nearly indestructible. Favoured among anglers for its great action on the retrieve this lure is the go to in any condition. With their slim profile and weight, they make a great long-distance casting lure that can be fired out like a torpedo and this can be crucial when trying to reach distant schools of cruising salmon on southern beaches. Whether you’re casting into open clear water or around rocky reef structures, this is one lure you can’t do without this salmon season.

 

 

Castability: 5/5
Price: 5/5 (approx. $5-$10)
Catchability: 5/5

Other Species: Tailor, herring, bonito, tuna, trevally, Queenfish, Kingfish, ,ackerel

How to fish them: They can be fished as either a sinking stickbait or a surface lure or both during the same retrieve! Retrieve them fast to create a frantic baitfish surface splash action or slow the retrieve down and watch it dart around just under the surface.

Available in White, Red Head, Chartreuse, Pink and Yellow, and in five sizes from 28 grams through to 140 grams – sized from 138mm to 78mm.

Spanyid Raider

Photo credit: Spanyid

Along with the Halco Twisty, Raider metal lures are one of the most versatile fishing products ever designed and are useful for many fishing applications. Not only do these lures work in all water depths, they are effective in all aspects of lure use. The range of sizes match most baitfish profiles. Their range of weights means they have multiple fishing applications but do their best work being cast off a beach at a hungry waiting school of salmon.

Castability: 5/5
Price: 5/5 (approx. $5 – $10)
Catchability: 5/5

Other Species: Tailor, herring, bonito, tuna, trevally, Queenfish, Kingfish, mackerel

How to fish them: For best results, vary speed and angle of retrieve, and choose different colours to match the available baitfish in the area. The angled design allows for maximum casting distance, a ‘dart and weave’ motion on the retrieve at all but slow speeds for spinning.

Constructed with a shiny chrome body, anglers have the choice of nine sizes ranging from 10g upto 200g.

 

FREE SALMON HOTSPOT MAPS

Yes that’s right, we’re giving you all the tools and advice you need to catch one of these awesome sportsfish from your local beach by providing free beach fishing for salmon maps available for download here, alternatively pick one up from a local tackle store and speak to the experts on the ground.

Also why not be involved in all the excitement by checking out the Awesome Autumn of Salmon celebrations we’re having! More info here.

So what salmon lure is the best? What do you buy?

The answer is obvious,  you can never have enough lures for all forms of fishing.  Recfishwest’s suggestion is to buy one of each and try for yourself. Different lures will work best with different rod and reel setups. With the lures we’ve reviewed being so affordable and proven to catch salmon, it won’t break the bank if you buy one of each and make up your own mind!

Have you caught a salmon on one of the lures above? Send us your pics! Email them to info@recfishwest.org.au