Surf Fishing for Whiting – A Complete Guide

Surf Fishing for Whiting – A Complete Guide

This article will thoroughly cover surf fishing for whiting. Whiting are a plentiful, good tasting little fish that are a favorite among anglers fishing from the beach.

surf fishing for whiting

Special thanks to Courtney for the terrific pictures! Follow her brand Life4Reel on her website, Instagram, and YouTube pages and channels!

Whiting, Menticirrhus americanus, are also known as southern kingfish, sea mullet, surf mullet, and king whiting. They are abundant in the waters off of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean beaches. Whiting only grow to a couple of pounds, but they put up a good fight and are terrific to eat.

Click this link to read more about surf fishing in Florida

Whiting are the perfect species for anglers who enjoy surf fishing. They are abundant, easy to catch, and taste great. What more could anyone ask for? Catching whiting is easy and uncomplicated and that is certainly part of the attraction. However, as in all fishing, there are tips and techniques that will help anglers be more successful.

fishing for whiting

Surf fishing for whiting

Anglers enjoy surf fishing for whiting from Texas to New England. They are found off of beaches throughout this range. There are some differences in tackle and technique for the two bodies of water, therefore, they will be covered separately.

Best baits for surf fishing for whiting

saltwater fishing with shrimp

The top bait used by anglers surf fishing for whiting is shrimp; either live, fresh dead, or frozen. Shrimp are available at just about every tackle shop that caters to saltwater anglers. There really is no need to go to the bother of keeping shrimp alive, fresh dead and frozen shrimp work just as well and are easier to use. Small shrimp can be used whole while larger shrimp can be cut in half or thirds.

Click to read more about surf fishing tackle

Whiting feed on crustaceans. Therefore, clams, oysters, crabs, and sand fleas are all effective baits. Clams stay on the hook better than oysters and crabs for anglers surf fishing for mullet. Squid are another productive bait for whiting and it will catch most other surf species as well. Fresh cut bait will produce as well.

surf fishing for whiting

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

There are several companies that manufacture and sell commercially prepared baits for anglers surf fishing. The two most popular currently are Fishbites and Fishgum. These are effective baits for whiting and pompano as well. The main advantage to these baits is the convenience. They are easily stored and always ready to go fishing without the smell or mess.

Click to shop Amazon for an affordable Berkley surf fishing rod and reel combo

Surf fishing for whiting in the Atlantic Ocean

Anglers surf fishing for whiting in the Atlantic Ocean use traditional surf fishing tackle and rigs. They are faced with the need to make long casts as well as dealing with a rough surf in many instances. A 10 foot to 12 foot medium action rod with a 6000 series reel spooled up with 20 lb braided line is a good all round combination.

surf fishing

Most whiting caught off Atlantic beaches are done so by anglers casting the basic spreader rig, also known as the high/low rig or chicken rig. A pair of #4 hooks and a 3 ounce pyramid sinker will cover most whiting fishing situations. Anglers go go up or down in weight as needed depending on waves and wind as well as distance needed on the cast. Small floats are often used to keep the bait up just off the bottom. The color acts as an attractant as well. These rigs can be purchased locally and online.

Anglers surf fishing for whiting will find them in various locations on the beach. At high tide, they will often be found close to shore, “in the wash” as it is termed. Fish will also be found on the front or back side of the bars. On the lower tide stages, whiting will often be found on the back side of the second or third bar.

surf fishing

Surf fishing for whiting in the Gulf of Mexico

Anglers surf fishing for whiting in the Gulf of Mexico often face different conditions. Most of the time the waves are much lower than what anglers will face in the Atlantic Ocean. Whiting are often caught quite close to shore. They will cruise the first trough, or “ditch” in search of food. For this reason, lighter tackle and rigs are often used.

sliding sinker rig

The same inshore tackle used by anglers to catch speckled trout and other species will be fine for surf fishing for whiting off of the calm Gulf of Mexico beaches. A sliding sinker rig works very well. This consists of a ¼ ounce or ½ ounce egg sinker, a swivel, and 2′ of 20 lb leader followed by a #4 hook. This rig will drift along the bottom, resulting in a very natural presentation. Shrimp are by far the top bait.

surf fishing

There are certainly situations where anglers fishing for whiting off of the beaches will need to use conventional surf fishing gear. The same tackle and baits used by anglers surf fishing in the Atlantic Ocean works fin in this situation.

Anglers can also use artificial lures when surf fishing for whiting in the Gulf of Mexico. The top lure by far is a jig. Small bucktail jigs used for pompano work fine as does a soft plastic grub on a jig head. Anglers can tip the jig with a small piece of shrimp, resulting in the best of both worlds and a very effective surf fishing combination. This can be used in the Atlantic on calm days as well.

Other locations to find whiting

fishing for whiting

While most whiting are caught by anglers surf fishing, they are caught in other locations as well. Passes and inlets are spots that will produce whiting. Sand bars in these areas along with deeper holes are good places to try. The same techniques used off the beach work well when targeting whiting in the passes and inlets from shore.

Anglers fishing in boats to well drift fishing for whiting in passes and inlets. A shrimp tipped jig bounced sharply off the bottom from a drifting boat is an extremely effective technique. It not only produces whiting, but it will fool just about every other inshore saltwater species.

More species caught while surf fishing for whiting

One terrific benefit that anglers surf fishing for whiting experience is that they will invariably catch other species as well. Just about every saltwater fish feeds on shrimp. Therefore, bottom fishing with shrimp will produce a wide variety of fish.


surf fishing

Perhaps the top by-catch of whiting anglers is pompano. In fact, in many cases it is the other way around; anglers surf fishing for pompano catch whiting. Pompano have a small mouth and feed primarily on crustaceans while often being found in the surf. Pompano are superb on the diner plate!

surf fishing



Redfish, also known as red drum, are certainly a possibility for any angler surf fishing from Texas to the mid Atlantic beaches. While they often take larger cut baits, redfish love shrimp and will put up a terrific fight, especially on lighter tackle. Redfish are very good to eat.


surf fishing for bluefish

Small bluefish are a commonly caught species by anglers surf fishing. These fish are aggressive and readily take just about any bait or lure. Larger bluefish will usually bite through the lighter leaders used for whiting. Smaller bluefish are decent to eat, but certainly do not top the list.

Speckled trout

surf fishing for speckled trout

Speckled trout are often caught by anglers surf fishing, especially all along the Gulf of Mexico coast. They hit almost all live and cut baits as well as most artificial lures. They are a beautiful species that are fun to catch and are terrific to eat.

Jack crevalle

surf fishing for jack crevalle

Jack crevalle are a very hard fighting saltwater game fish. They grow quite large as well, over 30 pounds. Jacks often move through in schools, feeding ferociously on the surface. They will take just about any lure or bait and are not considered good to eat.


surf fishing for sharks

Sharks are always a possibility for anglers surf fishing. Most sharks will cut through the light leader used for whiting fishing. However, smaller sharks that are hooked in the corner of the mouth can be landed, with a little luck. Obviously, they should be handled with care.


surf fishing for ladyfish

Ladyfish are a hard fighting and pretty fish that Florida and Gulf Coast anglers know well. Some consider them to be a nuisance. They are not good to eat by prized by many anglers to be used as cut bait.


Sheepshead are mostly associated with structure of some sort, but they will be found cruising the beaches as well. Sheepshead also feed primarily on crustaceans so shrimp are a top bait. They are very good to eat, though difficult to clean.

Black drum

surf fishing for black drum

Black drum are a commonly caught species by anglers surf fishing. They will readily devour shrimp. Black drum grow very large and will certainly challenge any angler that hooks one on a lighter rod and reel. Small drum are good eating, larger specimens get wormy.


Flounder are a prize for any angler surf fishing for whiting. They inhabit sandy bottoms and are often caught in the surf. Cut bait is usually the best bait for flounder, but they will certainly take shrimp as well as a jig bounced along the bottom. Flounder are fantastic eating!

In conclusion, this article on surf fishing for whiting will help anglers catch more of these fun and tasty saltwater species!


Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

Recent Posts