Early spring is one of the best times to fish for whiting, as the fish along the beaches will be much larger than when they first came down in the fall – three or four months can be a significant time period for whiting.
Where the Fish are in the Springtime
In general, whiting are migratory, and feed primarily in the surf zone and inshore very close to the inlets. The location of whiting throughout spring depends almost entirely on the weather in any particular year. We don’t really get a continuous winter here in Florida, just a series of cold fronts. If cold fronts keep coming through all the way up to April, the fish may stick around a bit longer before heading north. If it is a warm winter, and no cold fronts come past January, the fish will likely be gone by April. That is for the migratory populations – some fish do stay around throughout the summer, on the northeast coast of Florida, and of course throughout the panhandle where they can’t really go any farther north.
Catching Whiting in the Surf
Surf fishing is by far the most common and effective technique for catching whiting. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when targeting whiting on the beaches is that you don’t have to cast far. Yes, on days when the surf is too rough for close fishing, you will have to break out the 12-foot rod to get past the big breakers, but on many days, the very first trough before the sandbar holds plenty of big whiting. Use a standard pompano-style surf rig, with a triangle sinker baited with clam, shrimp or sand fleas. You can also fish with an artificial jig in the surf – tipping the jig with a small piece of shrimp adds a chance at success.
Catching Whiting Inshore
Whiting typically run inshore when the beaches are too rough and they can’t find the food they’re looking for in the surf zone. By going inside the inlet, they can find many species of shrimp, crabs, and even small fish to feed on. When inshore, you can use a standard pompano rig, or use any single-hook setup, and use the same baits as you would on the beaches – clams, shrimp, or sand fleas. Cast towards deeper water, as they tend to stay in the channels inshore.
An Overview of Catching Whiting in the Springtime
The large migratory populations are moving north towards their summertime residence, which means there will be many fish on the beaches. The great thing about spring is that the fish are larger than they were in the fall. Fish for them on the beaches, but don’t be afraid to target them in the inshore channels as well.