Port Sorell - Ideal for fishing and family this summer

Whiting are often plentiful at Port Sorell over the summer months. Vance Murphy explains some techniques that will help catch these delicious fish. Situated half way between the mouth of the Tamar River and Devonport, Port Sorell is idea for family holidays.

As summer warms up and the camping spots at Port Sorell and Hawley beach fill, the whiting moves into the shallow waters of the Rubicon River. While by no means a game fish, the Whiting makes up in flavour for what it lacks in fighting qualities. The sweet white flesh is considered to be one of the tastiest available to the recreational fisherman.

Although there are nine species of Whiting inhabiting Tasmanian inshore waters, by far the most common is the "╦ťschool"or summer whiting, as it is sometimes known due to the fact that they are mainly caught from December to March.

Whiting congregate around the mouths of estuaries during these months to spawn. The females release their floating eggs and the males cover them with milt immediately. These can hatch within 24 hours and release the tiny whiting into the nursery waters. Those that survive the first few days, remain as prey of birds and larger fish throughout their lives.

Anglers know only too well how good live bait is, and a small whiting is no different. Hooked carefully through it's back, and allowed to swim across the sand flats and channels these are irresistible to large flathead.

After the first year juvenile whiting are around 150 mm long, the second year 250 mm, growing to a maximum of 320 mm long at three years. Most are ready to spawn between 250 mm and 280 mm. These are around the size of Port Sorell- Hawley beach fish.

There is no legal size, or bag limit for whiting in Tasmania. The new voluntary code recommends a bag limit of 20.

The best time of the day for catching whiting is just before daylight until around 9:30 am, and then again in the evening until just after dark. Sometimes, on an overcast day, they can be caught all day long. Due to the fact that whiting feed in the shallow clear water, they are easily spooked during high sun.

Whiting are easily caught using the right bait, these include; sand worms, pipi's (cockerels), nippers or yabbies, and soldier crabs are the best natural baits. These can all be found in the Hawley area. If you haven't the time to gather these try use some squid cut into thin strips or cocktail prawns (the type used in prawn cocktail prawns and seafood rolls). These are not as good, but will do the job.

For boat fishing a light rod of approximately 2 metres long, with a sensitive tip is ideal. With this type of rod you will be able to feel the tap, tap bite that is typical of whiting. Line only needs to be 2- 3 kg and will result in a lot more fish at the end of the day.

A typical rig is a number 4-6 long shank hook with a small piece of red tubing above it. Above this is about 450 mm of line connected to a black swivel, and above this is a small running sinker. The sinker should be just big enough to maintain contact with the bottom. Black swivels are used as brass ones reflect light and the whiting seem to shy away from these. The red tube I'm still being convinced about, but it seems to work.

Whiting seem to move in schools so it is not unusual to catch 4 or 5 fish and then everything goes quiet. Some people try to motor around and find the school, but this generally does little except spook the fish.

A better tactic is to use a small amount of berley to keep the fish in your area. A simple mix of bread crumbs, tuna oil, flour and water mixed in to a dough is ideal. It must hold together and gradually break up and hold the fish in the area. Remember, you are not feeding them, just holding them.

Some of the better places to try in the Hawley beach area are; a slow drift from just inside the Carbuncle in a south - easterly direction towards Bakers Beach, or along the westerly side of Bakers Beach Point.

At times an of shore drift is possible of Wilsons Point. On dusk this can produce surprising results, with much bigger fish being caught as you get into deeper water.

As mentioned the whiting like to feed on the sandy flats, but they need some current to stir up the bottom and dislodge their food, so incoming tide is usually best.

The shore based angler can catch whiting from most of the small sandy beaches on the walk to Wilsons Point. A rod 2.7 to 3 metres long, again with a sensitive tip, is ideal. The places to target are the holes and gutters at the back of the surf break. A tight line is needed to feel the bites and you should strike on the second tap, by the third they will have taken your bait.

Other fish encountered in the area include flathead, salmon, and small shark. The estuary is a shark nursery so release any you may catch.

Occasionally a squid will attach a whiting as you reel in. Try fishing a small whiting on a squid jig 1.5 metres under a float out the back of the boat. This can be a pleasant supplement to the diet.

Facilities at Port Sorell and Hawley beach include four boat ramps, which can only be described as poor. The ramp at Hawley beach is impossible in northerly and north- easterly weather. The main ramp at Port Sorell can have soft sand on the lower half and is difficult at low tide. The ramp in Pantana Rivulet can only be used on the top half of the tide. The other ramp at Squeaking Point further up stream goes in to good deep water and is over a good pebbly base, this is the only ramp suitable for a large boat.

Camping is available at Hawley Beach; contact is the Hawley beach shop 004286105. Port Sorell Lions Club Caravan Park 004287267, or Shearwater Country Club 004286205. Various other units and bed and breakfast facilities are available. Fuel, ice, bait and supplies are all available in the area.

The area has a number of safe beaches; most are patrolled by the Surf lifesaving Club. A water skiing area is available on the Bakers Beach side of the estuary, opposite the Port Sorell boat ramp.  

If the weather is too rough to fish out near the mouth of the river a trip upstream can be well worthwhile. The Rubicon is navigable up to the Exeter highway. The Franklin Rivulet is also worth a look.

While the whiting is a small fish the bones can sometimes be a problem. If they are filleted, rolled in flour and cooked on the BBQ the bones can usually be picked out easily.