Co-host Pete Bowman makes the case for winter whitefish
Lake whitefish are the Rodney Dangerfields of the sportfishing world—they just don’t get no respect. Even during the ice-fishing season, these scrappy fighters are often overlooked in favour of walleye and lake trout. But the savvy hardwater angler knows that when the whitefish are hitting, there’s lots of action to be had. And one of the best places to find that action? Northeastern Ontario’s Lake Temagami.
Temgami’s name comes from the Ojibway te-mee-ay-gaming, which means “deep water.” The lake extends some 35 kilometres from east to west and almost 50 kilometres from north to south, with picturesque arms branching out along its entire range. And with approximately 1,259 islands, it is indeed one big lake.
The whitefish season is open year-round on Temagami, with ice fishing starting as soon as the ice will support smaller huts, usually in early January. By the middle of the month, local operators move larger cabins with sleeping quarters over the hot spots—you can fish without even getting out of bed!
Most days, the fish are subtle biters, but they’re not that hard to catch. Unlike aggressively jigging for lake trout, a small Williams spoon jigged slowly while bumping the bottom is effective. Whitefish have excellent eyesight, so six- to eight-pound fluorocarbon line is recommended.
Another line with a spreader or pickerel rig tipped with minnows is often dropped right in the mud bottom, where whitefish root around for insects, larvae and small minnows. By adding this second line, anglers get a much better shot at a few extra fish for the pan.
In mid-February, the lake trout season opens on Temagami, and the action is excellent right through to the end of the season. The great news is that the laker hot spots also produce whitefish—now that’s definitely worth showing some respect.