Looking for a little different angling
experience to end off the ice fishing season?
Then maybe you should consider trying your luck for Lake Whitefish. In
Manitoba, we have a number of lakes that hold large populations of this great
sportfish. Not to be overlooked, whitefish are also great table fare. I love my
whitefish baked in an oven with just butter, salt and pepper. Cook at 425F for
about 11 minutes, then get some fresh parsley and lemon zest on the top.
For shore lunch, dip in egg and flour and some corn flake
crumbs. Cook quickly in some sunflower oil over a hot fire or cook stove. I
sometimes like to add some Cajun spice to flavour it up a bit.
Cleaning these fish can be a bit tricky for the novice.
First take off the anal fins, then slice up the middle from the anal cavity to
the head. Cut down to start taking the fillets off, then work your sharp knife
over the ribs bones as you take the fillets off. Whitefish have a Y bone like a
pike, so make that diamond cut at the top of the fillet just like a pike. You
also want to remove the red bloodline along their lateral line. This can give
the fillets a bit of a fishy taste. Take your time and work this out and you
will have some great firm white flesh that tastes great when cooked properly.
Friend Jeff Gustafson shows how it’s done on one of his television shows.
Check it out on YouTube
Lake Whitefish could be the most spectacular ice fishing
quarry that we have access to in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Preferring
cool clear water lakes with water depths in the twenty to fifty metre range,
the lakes of the Canadian Shield make for prime habitat. These aggressive
winter predators, though, are also more adaptable than the lake trout, tolerant
to warmer water temperatures. This expands their range to a wide variety of
lakes in this part of the world. Hard to catch? Not in the least, as long as
you keep a few certain rules in mind.
MANITOBA WHITEFISH LAKES: North Steeprock Lake in the
Porcupine Hills is absolutely loaded with Lake Whitefish. Westhawk and Falcon
lakes have abundant populations as does the entire Winnipeg River system,
especially the Nutimik Lake section.
In the Duck Mountains many a master angler whitefish has
come through an ice hole in March from Gull Lake. Cross Bay up at Grand Rapids,
has huge lake whitefish which can grow to size of thirty inches or better, a
challenge to any ice anglers equipment. Don’t forget Clear Lake in Riding Mountain
National Park, a spectacular lake whitefish fishery. My first experience for
this game fish occurred on this lake in a raging blizzard. While fishing conditions
were tough, these fish were aggressive and the action was constant.
On this particular day we keyed in on two different areas.
One was an extended point off a main lake island that dropped into deep water.
Whitefish love transition spots between hard and soft bottom, preferring to
feed off either insect larvae or small minnows in the winter. Mid lake shoals
and extended soft bottom flats also provide forage opportunities for these
Since that time, a lot of my trips for whitefish have been
to Shoal Lake, Ontario. Unfortunately, a
huge downturn in the smelt population on this lake has scattered the fish,
making locating large schools of these fish extremely difficult.
LURE SELECTION: Small
silver spoons like the Williams Ice Jig, and the Northlands Eye-Dropper work
well. Small jigs with Berkley one inch power tubes or two inch power grubs are
also excellent producers. A small jigging Rapala can also be deadly
along with Cicada’s. An aggressive jigging action with artificial lures will
call whitefish in from a distance, important considering that they can be
scattered over a fairly large area.
If the fish do get finicky, rigging up a small hook below a
couple of split shots with a dead shiner minnow can get you some jumbos as
The use of a hydrographic map, if available, will allow you
to find in advance areas that are likely to hold whitefish. Since larger
whitefish are usually very aggressive in the winter time, it won’t take long to
determine if there are fish in the vicinity.
As the days get longer in March, whitefish tend to get into
larger schools with fifty to hundred fish days a real possibility.
Labels: great eating on the ice