Lake whitefish are finally mine!
I drove up north on Wednesday for another “one last stab” at knabbing my first lake whitefish through the ice. I arrived at my spot in the afternoon to find large schools of baitfish from 80 fow to 30 fow. Prospects looked good, but I didn’t mark a single serious mark the entire afternoon. Frustrated, I decided I would have to fish elsewhere the next day. Big players just weren’t around.
Thursday morning I awoke at first light, but did not get to fishing until 10am. After speaking with a few locals, I finally decided on a spot to walk out from. The game plan was to walk across a large bay of the lake, drilling along the way to find fish.
I popped my first hole quite a ways out from shore to find 10 fow. I didn’t mark anything, so I moved on and popped the next hole to find 40 fow. It didn’t take long to notice some serious marks on the screen… not the whimpy baitfish marks from the day before.
I chummed heavily with minnows and the marks stuck around. I was throwing my whole tackle box down the hole… but the marks would simply ignore my lure completely or rise up a few feet and turn around. I tipped my lures with minnows and did not notice any improvement in the fish’s interest.
Then it occured to me that I should be fishing the same presentation as my chum. I tied on a small, but not tiny, 1/16th oz jighead and put a minnow on it. After a few bounces and lifts off bottom, I had a follower. This particular fish was following at a slow pace, not the screaming pace I would expect from a lake trout. I brought it up about 10 feet before the fish decided to bite.
The fish immediately felt unique… not like something I had hooked through the ice before. Lake trout made large head shakes and ran like trains. Burbot would lazily come up a few feet and then run. This particular fish gave me very sublte, gentle headshakes and no run at all. It was easily coming up to the hole!
And up came my first whitie! I didn’t take any chances at getting it out of the hole, I dunked my whole arm in there to lift this little 2lb gem!
And the birds that came along with the fish:
After a fury of photo-taking and a hysterical phone call to Ken to share my success, I tipped the jighead with a minnow and dropped it down once more.
Well, it only made it half way down before a screaming mark came up to grab it:
This 7lb lake trout that had me reconsidering my decision to use a 500 size reel
I fished on to bring another laker to the hole, but lost him on the grab and lift. Quick release! Not bad so far, 1 whitie and 2 lakers.
There was a pronouced lull to the bite. Nothing was showing interest. I went back to lures without luck. Then, after an hour of nothing, I went back to the jighead tipped with a minnow and…
And the crowd of birds gathered….
Then nothing. Back to lures. Nothing. Back to jighead tipped with minnow, first drop a mark rose up off bottom!!! I thought about what was happening. I believe that my lures were drawing fresh fish in, but not enticing them to bite. These fresh fish would then show interest in the minnow on the jighead. What’s more interesting is that, this entire time, I was running a second rod with a spring bobber and minnow on a small hook that was untouched. These fish definitely wanted to come up and chase something.
There was another lull to the bite. I reeled my jighead/minnow up about 10 feet and let it deadstick while I waited for something to come up. Finally, a slow rise met my jighead and bit a few feet after:
What’s interesting is that all the whities were nealry exactly the same size. Hovering around 2 and 2.5 lbs.
From there on, the most entertainment I got was from this small mink that walked a long ways out from shore to meet me on the ice:
Unbeknowst to his true intentions, I let him get too close…
And there we have it, another chapter in my fishing books has been closed. Lake whitefish, you are mine. And you taste so so good!