Whiting are biting at NC’s southern coast

Elijah Painter of Harrisburg, N.C. caught this whiting in the surf near Oak Island.

N.C.’s southern coast is a whiting hot hole in May.

Whether called whiting, sea mullet or Virginia mullet, or their proper names of Gulf, southern and northern kingfish, the arrival of these small panfish each spring is eagerly anticipated by scores of fishermen along the Cape Fear Coast. They taste great fried, grilled or broiled. Boat fishermen, pier anglers and surf fishermen catch them regularly.

Boat fishermen usually see whiting first. They make their earliest appearance around the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Whiting have a fondness for the bottom on the west side of Jaybird Shoal just outside the river off Fort Caswell and along the edges of the Cape Fear Ship Channel between Southport and the mouth of the river. Capt. Butch Foster of Yeah Right Charters (www.yeahrightcharters.com, 336-309-5900) said 14 to 17 feet seems to be their preferred depth in either place.

Pier anglers see whiting next and that began early this year. The water temps passed 60 in mid-March. And the first pier whiting began to arrive shortly after. Carolyn Riggan of Oak Island Pier (910-910-933-6161) said fishermen there were already seeing good catches. And they expected the good catches to continue into June.

No size restriction or creel limit

Surf fishermen see whiting a week or so after the first pier catches and good catches are already being reported. Bobby Summey is an avid Oak Island surf fisherman and he said whiting tend to gather around the first breaking wave on the outer bar. The breaking waves wash food out of the sand for easy pickings.

Foster, Riggan and Summey said the easiest way to catch whiting is using a double-drop rig baited with the freshest shrimp possible. Foster and Summey make their own rigs while Riggan said most pier fishermen catch whiting well using the Sea Striker rigs they sell at the pier. These rigs come plain or with red or green beads. They all work well. The hook of choice is a long shank and offset, size 4 or 6 Eagle Claw L072.

Some fishermen also use bloodworms and the synthetic bloodworms from Fishbites with good success. Foster said he has also had good success using pieces of Berkley Gulp baits and using shrimp flavored Pro-Cure Scent Gel to cover the smell of older shrimp. These fish are members of the drum family and use their noses to find food, so having good smelling bait is important.

Currently there are no size restrictions or number limits on whiting in N.C. waters.

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Wondering what to do with all those whiting? Cook ’em up with this great recipe.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1170 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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