Lake Whitefish

The fine flavour of lake whitefish has been extolled since the days of the early explorers. The roe is enjoyed as well.

The lake whitefish is a member of the salmon family and has a small head with a small mouth and a blunt snout over hanging the lower jaw.    Their colouration is olive-green to blue on the back, the sides of the adults have an overall silvery appearance and the underside is silvery white.   They have a deeply forked tail. On average, they reach 18 inches.    Old fish may develop a hump behind the head (nuchal hump).

It is a cool-water species that moves from shallow to deep water as warming occurs and back to shallow water in the cooler months. Adults are bottom feeders, and their diet includes aquatic insect larvae, plankton, clams, snails, as well as smaller fishes and fish eggs, including their own. They are vulnerable to larger fishes, otters, bears, and fish-eating birds.

Lake whitefish spawn in the fall. One female and one or more males rise to the surface where the eggs are released and fertilized.  Spawning usually occurs in shallow water at depths of less than 25 feet over a hard or stoney bottom and sometimes over sand. The spawning fish are quite active and have been observed to leap out of the water. The eggs are deposited at random over the spawning grounds and remain there until they hatch in April or May the following year. When the May Flies start to hatch, the Whitefish will move out of the rivers and stay just below the surface of the lake feeding on the hatching flies. When the May Fly hatch is complete, the Whitefish go deep.

   CATCHING LAKE WHITEFISH IN ALL SEASONS

Generally small is the word. Small baits and lures should be used. Whitefish will hit a bigger lure like a small Rapala or Thunderstick but generally the hooks on these lures are too big for the Whitefish's tiny mouth. They do have a thick upper lip and will hold a hook well if not too much pressure is applied on the retrieval. Worms can be used, but try injecting a small amount of air into the worm to keep it about an inch or so off bottom.

If you choose to use a spoon to catch these tasty fish, then you should start with something like a Williams Whitefish Junior. Either a plain silver, or half-and-half. To use the spoon, try letting line out until the spoon is on bottom. Now reel in just enough line so that you can feel the weight of the spoon and start a slow jigging motion. Let the spoon hit the bottom on the down stroke and lift about six inches off bottom on the upstroke. This causes the spoon to rile the bottom slightly, imitating the look of feeding baitfish. This will in turn cause the whitefish to feed on the baitfish. The spoons can be used as is or tipped with a part of a minnow.

Spring: In the very early Spring, the Whitefish migrate into the spawning streams to feed on the Walleye, Pike and Sucker eggs that are being dropped.   Once fishing season opens –  which on Falcon Lake is the weekend before the May Long - the best way to fish for Whitefish is with 4 lb. test line and really tiny hooks with a single salmon egg, grub, a little ball of Berkley Power Dough or the best bait, Wax Worms. Have a small float and let the bait float.

Spring Fly Fishing: Generally, the whitefish will be everywhere there are large populations of May Flies hatching on the surface. This is a perfect time for Fly-Fishing for Whitefish with your fly-rod. You can catch Whitefish on the surface in the spring with small spinners, 1/16 oz jigs, tiny Rapalas or putting a May Fly or Waxworm on a hook and a small float and just cast off the dock! Use your regular fly-rod and regular line but the lead line should be 4 pound test. Use a fly that looks like a May Fly. Other flies might work well but remember, the Whitefish's visual acuity this time of year is for the shape and movement of the May Fly.

The Whiteshell River, half an hour from Falcon Lake at the north of West Hawk Lake where it flows into Caddy Lake, has great fly-fishing.

Or, go out in the boat about 1.5 hours before dark on a calm night when the water surface is smooth and quietly drift past small bays or where you see fish breaking the surface. Just cast out over the water like normal fly-fishing.  Whitefish like to see the May Fly stationary with a circular movement. The trick is to leave your fly stationary and spin your fishing rod. Just spin it a few time with your finger-tips. The heavy fly line will spin with the rod and if your lead line is not too long, it will spin to and make the fly flop around.

Summer: Whitefish are a deep water fish and go deep during the Summer. Use a three-way swivel system with a Zero Mepps or Blue Fox and troll very slowly.
You need a light action rod with six pound test line. You also need three-way swivels and a 2 or 3 oz. weight.  Tie two four ft pieces of line to your 3-way swivel.

Trolling Slowly:  You only want to move just fast enough for your lure to work and no faster. If your boat is moving too fast, it will be very hard to find the bottom of the lake. If you are using a boat with a bigger motor and it's hard to keep slow, try back trolling. The most important thing is letting out line to get to the bottom.

In the summer time, Whitefish hit best in the morning between first light and 10:30 AM. They will hit better if the surface of the water is dead calm and it's a clear sky with high pressure.

You would want to troll over a drop-off.  Or, try to find the deep holes in the lake.   A GPS or topographic map is useful for this. If its windy, fish the side of the lake where the wind is coming from, where there will be more oxygen.

Fall: Whitefish spawn in the Fall. They migrate into rivers and during the spawn, the Whitefish only feed during the day (which is the exact opposite of most fish). As it gets dark, the fish lose all interest in food and concentrate on their spawn. During the end of the spawn, they may start to feed before they travel back to the lake.

Winter: Generally Whitefish will stay shallow all Winter.   

Falcon Lake Marina and Faloma Beach Marina are both well-supplied with the bait and lures you need to catch the tasty Whitefish!   
Once you do, you could try this recipe:


Grilled Lake Whitefish Recipe:

  Ingredients

1/2 c. butter, melted
1/8 tsp. salt
Dash of ground pepper
1 2-lb. whitefish, boned and split
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tsp. lemon juice
Parsley Sprigs
Lemon Wedges

 Preheat BBQ.  Brush BBQ rack lightly with some of the melted butter. Stir salt and pepper into remaining butter, and brush the inside of the whitefish and the skin with some of the mixture.   Reserve the remainder. Place whitefish, skin sides down, on BBQ rack. Grill whitefish for about 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Place on serving platter. Stir chopped parsley and lemon juice into remaining butter mixture; pour over whitefish. Garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon.