Whiting are kings of the spring for Cape Fear anglers

Fishermen in the Cape Fear area catch whiting in the surf, from piers and from small boats throughout the spring. (Picture by Jerry Dilsaver)

Whiting are known by several other names

Whiting are fish with many names. Their colloquial names are whiting, sea mullet and Virginia mullet, and all are used by many fishermen. Scientifically, whiting are different species of “kingfish” — northern kingfish, southern kingfish and gulf kingfish. They have the same body shape but different markings. Fishermen in North Carolina’s Cape Fear region catch them all. And all are welcome to be the guest of honor at a fish fry.

Whiting are a triple threat, or maybe a triple treat, in the Cape Fear region. They can be caught inside the inlets, in the surf and from the piers and boats just a little way off the beach in the ocean. They don’t require any specialized tackle, and they remain one of the few North Carolina fish without minimum size or creel limits. Some fishermen overlook whiting. They are usually easy to catch and don’t fight particularly hard — but that’s a mistake. If you enjoy eating fish, you’ll like whiting. Their firm meat has a mild and lightly sweet flavor.

Whiting are one of the first fish to arrive each spring. They typically show just off the beaches, then move into the surf and pier zone. And then into the inlets and rivers. Butch Foster of Yeah Right Charters (www.yeahrightcharters.com, 336-309-5900) in Southport said whiting usually arrive off the mouth of the Cape Fear River in March. A warm spring will see them early in the month, and cool weather delays them a couple of weeks.

Shrimp, Fishbites will entice these fish into biting

Foster said whiting generally show first in roughly 15 feet of water off Caswell Beach, then move west down Oak Island into the surf and east into the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Along the Cape Fear River channel, they like similar depths along the slope from the shallows into the channel.

Dennis Barbour of Island Tackle Charters (www.facebook.com/islandtacklefishingcharters, 910-458-3049) in Carolina Beach said another good spot to find these fish in the lower Cape Fear River is along and beside the Southport-Fort Fisher ferry channel on the Fort Fisher side. Barbour said they usually congregate on the edge of the channel but sometimes spread into the shallower water around it. He cautioned this is a narrow channel and to anchor nearby and cast, not anchor in it and impede the ferry.

Barbour and Foster agree a basic double-drop bottom rig, baited with pieces of the freshest shrimp possible, will catch these fish. If fresh shrimp are difficult to find, Fishbites synthetic bloodworms are a reasonable, sometimes excellent, substitute. Whiting are bottom feeders that use their superior sense of smell to help find food in stirred up water, so using baits that smell good is important.

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Jerry Dilsaver
About Jerry Dilsaver 1125 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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