On a list of the most popular kinds of fish to catch through the ice, somewhere near the bottom are whitefish. It’s not that folks don’t like to catch whitefish, it’s just that not very many know where to catch them or know how to get them to bite. And that’s unfortunate because whitefish can be caught on many lakes, and the techniques used to catch them are very simple.
In Minnesota there are two kinds of whitefish generally caught by ice anglers: lake whitefish and ciscoes. Large lake whitefish from Lake Superior may weigh over 20 pounds, but seldom are they found weighing much more than four pounds. Ciscoes are largely native to Lake Superior. Ciscoes that are found in inland lakes are often called tullibees by sport fishermen. Tullibees typically are heavier bodied than ciscoes, and have been known to weigh eight pounds. The way to distinguish tullibees (ciscoes) from lake whitefish is the mouth. Lake whitefish have an overhanging snout, while most species of cisco have upper and lower jaws that appear equal in length. Many lakes have both ciscoes and whitefish.
The most well known lakes that offer good winter whitefish angling are Leech, Winnibigoshish, Red Lake, Mille lacs, and several smaller lakes throughout northern and central Minnesota. Though not always the case, most lakes that have good whitefish populations are cold and deep.
Whitefish are often found at depths between 25 and 40 feet in mid-winter. Just before ice-out the fish move shallower, which is when most of them are caught by anglers. Both lake whitefish and tullibees normally suspend between the surface and the lake bottom. You can learn what depth they are by finding them with a locator. Just set the transducer in the ice hole and turn the unit on. Good quality locators will show schools of fish and the bottom.
Both whitefish and tullibees feed on tiny food forms. Insect larvae, plankton, and small crustaceans are good examples of food found in the stomachs of these fish. So the best ice fishing baits for whitefish are small tear drops and jigs tipped with wax worms or crappie minnows.
First, locate schools of whitefish on your depth finder and lower your bait to that depth. You can either jig the lure and bait, or use a bobber to suspend it in front of the the fish. Whitefish are good fighters, and catching a bunch can be a ball. Whitefish are not known for their food quality when fried like most fish. But when they are smoked fresh from the lake, they are excellent.
Posted by Jeff Howard on January 25, 2011
Comments: 1 Comment