A few tricks for hooking whitefish

One of the most plentiful fish we have in lakes across our region is also the least targeted by anglers.
The lake whitefish has long been popular with commercial fishermen because they are great to eat, but have received little pressure from sport anglers.
Whitefish prefer cold water so that makes winter the prime time for catching them.
Anglers can use a variety of tactics to catch these fish throughout ice-fishing season, and with a little practice they are relatively easy to clean.
If there is one fish species that whitefish can be compared to with regard to their attitude under the ice, it’s lake trout. “Whities” can be found throughout the water column, on the bottom, or right under ice.
They go wherever the food is, and their activity level under the ice is usually high so you want to use baits that will get their attention.
Spoons shine because they flash and flutter and call fish in from long distances.
Whitefish will feed on whatever they can find to eat—evident by the mixed bag of insects, minnows, and invertebrates you’ll find if you inspect the stomach contents of fish that you clean.
I like the lighter style of spoons that flutter a lot, like a Northland Moxie Minnow, instead of the traditional walleye and trout spoons that are heavier chunks of lead.
If you are marking fish but aren’t hooking up, my favourite trick is to tie a dropper rig below the spoon. Remove the treble hook and tie a six-inch piece of eight-pound test line monofilament from the spoon to a small fly and whitefish will eat up the small jigs every time.
The important thing to remember is that whitefish can get big and generally are aggressive. But they have a really small mouth, so they might chase larger baits that are popular for trout but they have a hard time getting the hooks in their mouth sometimes.
You want to use small, slender lures.
When it comes to which lakes to fish, think about the big ones across Sunset Country, which all have whitefish. I have fished for them and caught a bunch on Lake of the Woods, Shoal Lake, and Rainy Lake.
Think deep water and deep holes. Especially as we get later into the ice-fishing season, whitefish will start to congregate in the deepest holes of the lake.
In shallower lakes, these holes might be 30 feet. In deeper lakes, they could be 90 or 100 feet. Drill lots of holes and keep moving until you find fish.
If you get into some whitefish and you decide to keep a few, there are some tricks to take care of these fish so that they are top-notch table fare.
My friend, Alex Keszler, taught me that the first thing he does when he catches a whitefish he’s going to keep is to cut the fish between the gills and the pectoral fins, where the fishes heart is located. This will bleed the fish out really quick.
When you actually clean them, they have a ‘Y’ bone similar to a lake trout or pike. Keszler actually zippers the fillet into two pieces and cuts the ‘Y’ bones out once he does this.
Before you bag up the fillets, there is one more important step. Cut off all the greyish red matter between the flesh and skin (you will see some of this stuff when you remove the flesh from the skin).
This stuff will give the meat that fishy taste nobody likes.
Once you get them cleaned up, you have one of the finest pieces of white meat you will ever taste. You can bake it, broil it, or fry it—and it’s all good!

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