Where Are They:
Usually (not ice fishing), Whitefish are caught in the early spring or in the Fall when they migrate to areas with current such as rivers or narrow flows in the lake system. Whitefish have very small and tender mouths, which is why most people who catch Whitefish were Walleye fishing while using really small hooks and minnows or really small jigs. You don't have to wait for a freak chance to catch a Whitefish. Just follow some rules for the different seasons.
In the very early Spring, the Whitefish migrate into the rivers and streams to feed on the Walleye, Pike and Sucker eggs that are being dropped during the spawn. The best way to fish for Whitefish in the Spring is in the river 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 down stream and over the deeper pools that are behind the gravel spawning beds.
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.
Spring Fly Fishing:|
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. 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.
Use your regular fly-rod and regular line but the lead line should be 4 pound test. In the case of Lake Windermere, the Whitefish get big so 6 pound test can be used. 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.
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. Remember, this time of year, the Lake Trout are just under the surface and are also feeding on May Flies. If you cast out and slowly retrieve your fly like you usually do for trout, you will hit trout. Trout like to see some horizontal movement on the surface which is why you will hit trout while retrieving. 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. It really works…
The bottom half our our Lake Trout Tips is using the 3-way swivel, which is the best way to fish for whitefish in deep water. 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 slow in about 60 feet of water.
If you are on a lake where you know where the Whitefish are concentrated during the summer, then a more relaxing method is to jig straight down in the deep water. Remember, Whitefish have small mouths thus you should use tiny jigs. You can make the jig a bit more tasty if you put a wax-worm or a piece of dew-worm on the jig.
Whitefish spawn in the Fall. They migrate into rivers and basically spawn in the same spawning beds as the Walleyes. During the spawn, the Whitefish only feed during the day which is the exact opposite of most fish. You will find that as soon 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.
Generally Whitefish will stay shallow all Winter. In the Spring, they feed on Walleye eggs again and do not go deep until after they gorge themselves on the spring May Fly hatch. Generally small is the word. Small baits and lures must 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.