Winter whiting are fun to catch but make sure you keep count of the numbers.
Winter whiting are fun to catch but make sure you keep count of the numbers.

An outing where half our impressive catch disappeared

ONCE upon a time before we had strict bag limits, it was common for anglers to catch hundreds of winter whiting in a session.

But it was vitally important to get them home safely without massive losses.

Before revealing what happened on one fishing misadventure, it's worth noting how so many fish were landed.

Using two or three hooks on light line and adding freshly pumped yabbies, it was easy to catch cricket score catches in productive waters like Hervey Bay.

The shallow sandy inshore bays close to Toogoom were an ideal spot to target big schools of tasty winter whiting, also called "divers'' because of the fun fight they provided.

UFO MEMORIES: What was really out there?

SHARK FEARS: Hungry predator within reach

FALLING OVERBOARD: The worst experience in winter

Before the trawlers discovered these whiting riches and netted them commercially at night, it was even more exciting.

Often while waiting for a second whiting to take your hook, a school mackerel would attack your first catch.

Suddenly, you'd feel a stronger pull on the line and wind it in only to have a whiting head left.

A feisty mackerel could feast on your catch faster than you could retrieve.

Over time, the mackerel disappeared and the whiting stocks also started to diminish.

But before that happened, it was a terrific family outing having everyone reel in large numbers of whiting with little effort.

The only problem was having to clean all the fish after returning to shore.

That's where the moral of this story starts to take shape.

SILVER SATISFACTION: The joy of landing a jew at night

AMAZING HOOK-UP: Two rewards for the price of one

NIGHT DANGERS: Watch for those flying projectiles

Eager to reduce time at the scaling bench, my uncle Len came up with what he thought was an innovative way to scale the fish while chugging back into the Burrum River where we holidayed.

He decided to put all his whiting into a keeper net and tie it to the back of his tinny.

As he slowly moved toward the boat ramp, the theory was this would scale the whiting and make it faster to trim off their fillets for dinner.

The scaling idea worked a treat. But to everyone's shock, half his catch had disappeared on the trip home.

It quickly became clear the small divers were sucked through the net, returning to where they came.

After that valuable lesson, we stuck to cleaning our future catches the old-fashioned way by hand.

All these years later, it's no longer worth modifying uncle Len's approach.

Thankfully bag limits have been introduced, reducing the need to explore other fish cleaning shortcuts.

This article is part of a Fishy Tales series focusing on unusual experiences and adventures.