Learn about the following species groups (including their most common members, as well as purchasing, storage and cooking information), or select a specific species from the species list on the right.
Whiting are popular for their delicate white flesh and subtle flavour. Of the 30 species in the Indo-Pacific region, 13 are found in Australia’s shallow coastal waters, usually schooling in coastal bays and estuaries. Several, including School, Trumpeter and Yellowfin Whitings, are unique to Australia.
The most common commercial Whitings in Australia are:
King George Whiting (Sillaginodes punctata), one of Australia’s most prized fin fish, is easily distinguished from other Whitings by its tiny scales and the dark spots along its sides. Found around Australia’s southern coast, from southern NSW to Perth (including Tasmania), it’s caught mainly off South Australia, with supply peaking from March to August. It’s the largest of the Whitings, commonly over 1kg, and the highest priced.
Sand Whiting (Sillago ciliata) is found along the length of the east coast, in bays, near ocean beaches, and in estuaries (travelling as far up river as the tidal limit), and caught mostly off southern Queensland and NSW. It has bright yellow lower fins making it look similar to the smaller Yellowfin Whiting.
Yellowfin Whiting (Sillago schomburgkii) is endemic to Australia and looks similar to Sand Whiting with its bright yellow lower fins. Found around river mouths and other inshore, sometimes brackish, waters along the southern and south western coast from Shark Bay (WA) to Victor Harbour (SA), it’s caught mainly in Spencer Gulf and Gulf of St Vincent (SA) and Shark Bay (WA). It’s in limited supply from May to August and commonly only 100-200g.
School Whiting is the marketing name for 3 low-medium priced species, all with a distinctive silvery stripe along the middle of their bodies. They’re all endemic to Australia and a lot of the catch is frozen whole and exported.
Trumpeter Whiting (Sillago maculate) looks quite similar to the School Whitings, but is distinguished by dark brown blotches on its sides, the upper blotches often joined to lower spots especially towards the back of the body. It’s found in sheltered bays and estuaries, especially in mangrove creeks and river mouths, along the east coast, and caught mostly in southern Queensland (Moreton Bay) and central to northern NSW, with supply peaking from June to August. This small Whiting (typically around 100g) is endemic to Australia.
The other Australian Whitings, usually sold simply as Whiting, are: Bay (Sillago ingenuua), Goldenline (Sillago analis), Mud (Sillago lutea), Northern (Sillago sihama), Western School (Sillago vittata), and Western Trumpeter (Sillago burrus) Whitings.
Whiting are sold whole (gilled and gutted), as trunks (headless), and in single and butterflied fillets. In whole fish look for lustrous skin, firm flesh, and a pleasant, fresh sea smell. In fillets, look for white, firm, lustrous, moist flesh without any brown markings or oozing water and with a pleasant fresh sea smell. Sand and Yellowfin Whitings tend to naturally have a faintly yellow hue to their flesh.
Make sure whole fish is scaled, gilled, gutted and cleaned thoroughly. Wrap whole fish and fillets in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze whole fish for up to 6 months, and fillets for up to 3 months, below -18ºC.
Cooking & Serving
Whitings are suitable for a wide range of cooking methods: steaming, poaching, deep-frying, pan-frying, stir-frying, baking, braising, grilling, barbecuing, and raw (except for Trumpeter, which is too soft for sashimi). They have a delicate, sweet flavour (though King George can be slightly ‘peppery’), low oiliness and moist, medium-textured, flaky flesh with fine bones which are easily removed. The edible skin can be left on, the flesh has good gelling characteristics, so works well in mousseline, and the bones make excellent stock. Fillets tend to be thin in all except the largest fish, so are often best wrapped in foil or banana leaves to protect them when barbecuing or grilling. King George and Sand Whitings are good plate-sized fish for cooking whole.
What’s in a Name?
Appearances, and names, can be deceiving. The Australian fish known as Blue Weed Whiting (Haletta semifasciata) looks a lot like King George Whiting, but is actually a Wrasse (despite being a member of the Odacidae family, also called Rock Whitings). In the northern hemisphere, the name ‘whiting’ is applied to various unrelated species, including English whiting (Merlangius merlangus) and Pacific hake (Merluccius productus), also called Pacific whiting, both of which are members of the Cod family, though quite Whiting-like in texture and appearance.