Whither the whitefish

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Lake Superior whitefish are back!

There have been anglers bumping into a few here and there over the last three weeks or so, and the big schools have yet to fully materialize, but they’re coming! In fact, just a couple of days ago, the lake trout on several of our charters were stuffed with the perch fry that triggers this entire phenomenon.

You see, according to Jim Vashro, retired Region 1 fisheries Manager, “The Lake Superior whitefish make up the largest biomass of fish in Flathead Lake, and they come shallow to gorge on young of the year perch, when they are available in sufficient numbers.”

Jim went on to say that with this cold and unstable spring weather, the perch could be a little small, and a little late this year.

Our records indicate we usually start to see the big bait balls of perch in deeper water around mid-June, and we have only just begun to see them recently. But the bellies of lake trout don’t lie, so there are good reasons to be excited.

Point Caroline, Woods Bay Point, Glacier Bay and Hatchery Bay are all good places for early whitefish ... these are all places that these fish will call home for the next six to eight weeks, and maybe even longer. Smaller boats can launch and find fish not too far from the dock, so if the wind comes up, you aren’t far from your trailer. Just look for the concentration of boats, and then fine tune your location by using your electronics.

Gearing up? Well it doesn’t get much simpler! Just about everyone has a medium light or medium spinning combo in their closet, the ideal length to me being 6 foot long. Many folks make use of their ice fishing rods, especially when fishing shallower or in a crowded, smaller boat.

Line? I like 8-pound monofilament when fishing in less than 40 feet or so, and braid when deeper or windy. Your knot tying skills will be tested as you will want to clip and retie regularly. Unless of course you like losing fish and the lure that the fish just bit.

Speaking of lures ... several local tackle makers, many of which I highlighted in recent columns, are gearing up for this bite, but they make this gear in small batches, so I recommend you stock up NOW to avoid the empty pegs!

Petes Tackle “Whitefish Slayers,” Zimmer Tackles Rattle D Zastor and the good ol’ Rattle Snakey are all good choices, as are the new lures Rick Green of Trick Tackle is making and selling through Snappy’s. I may be missing a few others ...

Other dynamite lures for me last year were the Small Pea Slab Spoon in 3/8 ounce, the Blade Spoon and Rattlin Blade Spoon in 1/4 and 3/8 ounce and the Pinhead Minnow in 3/8 ounce, all from Clam Pro Tackle and available at several local tackle shops. 0If it looks like a perch, and has a good hook, it will catch whitefish!

Technique? Drop the lure to the bottom, and then try subtle lifts and falls, keeping your rod horizontal to the water. I like the technique of just tickling bottom, with a couple sharp rips every 30-45 seconds.

If you’re fishing in the grass, braided line and sharp rips of the jig will clear the grass most of the time. Big sweeping hook sets will snag more fish, and tends to take the jig out of the zone for whitefish, but will get you lake trout on the fall back to bottom. If the line stops before you think it should, set the hook! Then, get the net!

Our network of guides on the water daily continues to grow, and all are boats are equipped with state of the art electric anchors and sonars that allow us to move with the schools.

So if you if you want to jump on a boat with us, gather up some friends, and give us a call!

This fishery is a numbers game and can be one of the finest we have in the Valley, and even more fun when you share it with family and friends!

Let’s go fishin’!

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