A few years ago, Gord Pyzer and I went ice fishing for walleye. Alas, our efforts to find a hump that was sure to hold fish were pretty weak.
We drilled a set of holes, all of which were “out to sea” in 50+ feet of water, obviously not where we wanted to be.
But while checking depths with my flasher, I noticed a few marks showing up at 30 feet. So I dropped a small spoon down the hole and before my bait was halfway to the fish, they already were racing up to eat my offering.
A few moments later, I hauled a beautiful whitefish up on the ice.
Gord dropped his bait in the next hole and the same scene replayed itself as he pulled an even bigger fish from the ice. We quickly forgot about walleyes and proceeded to catch a whole pile of whitefish the rest of the afternoon.
Finding winter whitefish is the tough part; the catching is usually easy.
When we found that mother load, we were off the edge of a main lake hump. This is a typical location; the fish are in deep water, but they still relate to structure.
This structure comes in the form of humps, points, and sharp shoreline drop-offs in the main basin of the lake.
Electronics are key to finding fish quickly. Because they school, whitefish are easy to spot—without even dropping a line. If fish are present, you will see them.
“Whities” usually are suspended up off the bottom, adding to the value of having electronics.
Like I said earlier, once you find fish, they typically are easy to catch. They behave much like small lake trout, except they come in schools. They will chase baits, eat aggressively, and fight like trout.
The thing about whitefish is they have very small mouths, so you have to match your bait accordingly. Small spoons attract the most attention by far. Tip them with a piece of minnow or plastic.
Or try my favourite set-up, the “dropper rig.” I use a bigger walleye- or trout-sized spoon, remove the treble hook, and tie on a four- to six-inch length of 10-pound mono.
To the mono I tie on a small fly or crappie-sized jig.
This rig works great for whitefish, and versions of it work for nearly all fish under the ice. The spoon attracts the attention of the fish and the tiny fly is easily inhaled.
It will outfish everything else.
Whitefish are great fun in the winter because they can be found in great numbers in many lakes in the region. They are excellent fighters and they are tasty.
I have eaten them fried and baked, and they are fantastic smoked.
The key is to get out, drill plenty of holes in deep-water areas close to structure, and drop some spoons on them. If you connect, you will be hooked for life, like Gord and I were.