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Thread: Whitefish on the fly?

  1. #1

    Default Whitefish on the fly?

    I've caught a few whitefish while trout fishing and trying to read up a little bit on these fish. Anyone here with practical experience on how to catch them and on what and where? Think they would be a ball using a 3 wt since they are about the size of a grayling. From what I understand they are not very aggressive and like to eat small stuff.

  2. #2

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    Haven't done it in Alaska, but in Montana they can be an absolute PITA when you're fishing small nymphs near bottom and for some hatches. Up here I'd sure look at high sticking a beadhead nymph just off bottom.

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    Member TYNMON's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kimjn View Post
    I've caught a few whitefish while trout fishing and trying to read up a little bit on these fish. Anyone here with practical experience on how to catch them and on what and where? Think they would be a ball using a 3 wt since they are about the size of a grayling. From what I understand they are not very aggressive and like to eat small stuff.
    Havimg taken opened stomach"s of hundreds of least cisco and humpaback white fish I have seen some very distinct patterns depending on the time of year.

    Humpback whitefish
    Spring, mainly small freshwater clams, diptera (midges), caddis larva,caddis adults later in the year primarily water boatman and apus (looks like a two inch long horseshoe crab).

    These fish are often in huge schools and are easy to catch with patterns just below the surface.

  4. #4

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    we have caught them grayling fishing, some years more then others, though when we find them we go after them.

    beadhead pt's and pearl scuds seem to be our goodest bugs .

  5. #5

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    I have caught a lot of them while grayling fishing with a dropper. They seem more bonefish-like than grayling but about the same size. Pound for pound they definitely fight much harder than a grayling and are a blast to catch if you are in a lot of them. A small tungsten bead head nymph (sz16) to get bouncing on the bottom of creeks seems to work best for me. The color didn't seem to matter, but while grayling fishing i tend to go to the darker colors. They don't always bite, so if your arn't seeing a lot of them then I wouldn't waist my time targeting them.
    Riley

  6. #6

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    I was assisting in a fisheries inventory trip about thirty years ago on the Melozitna river... we got below the narrows and could see some relatively large fish cruising about. The mepps boys couldn't get any interest but I threw out a black ant and bingo. If I recall, they were humpback whitefish.

    L

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    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    Where I was fishing last summer there was this slough with a bunch of 2 foot long whitefish in it and some lake trout the lake trout were pretty easy but the whitefish would spook way off, and I never got close... Maybe next year I'll figure them out.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

  8. #8
    hap
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    Maggots are the standard main course at most whitefish buffets... must mean something!

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    Member Jack Salmon II's Avatar
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    I have caught hundreds of Mountain Whitefish, mostly in Oregon while nymphing under an indicator. I caught several this early March in Oregon. I have also caught them here in AK on nymphs in Denali Highway lakes and while drifting egg patterns in the upper and middle Kenai while trouting. The Denali and Kenai whitefish are identical in appearance and fight to the Oregon variety I have caught. I assume they are also Mountain Whitefish, but don't know for sure. They are way more common on the upper than the middle Kenai. They seem to prefer slacker water, less in riffles. You'll still find 'em in riffles, though. In Oregon and on the Denali lakes they will hit dry flies, most standard patterns smallish 14s and 16s (mosquitos, Adamses, Black Gnats, Griffith's Gnats, etc), but I have caught the vast majority nymphing under the surface on Pheasant Tails, beadhead Hare's Ear, March Brown nymphs and emergers. The most money whitefish fly for me has been the standard size 12 or 14 gold-ribbed Hare's Ear in the traditional dubbing, tan, with a gold or copper-colored tungsten beadhead. I don't put shot on my leader. Those tungsten beadheads get them down there into the feed zone pretty quickly. I often cast upstream of the zone I want to cover to allow a little time for the fly to sink. Oregon whitefish, however, will move up pretty readily to take a fly if they are in the mood. Whitefish have very small, fairly soft mouths, very much like a grayling. Strikes can be easy to miss. They fight like a grayling, one or two good runs, then they usually lay over. Really big'uns can bulldog you like crazy for a while, especially on lighter leaders. I've never caught any big'uns yet here in AK, but have got them up to 23" in Oregon. Most are about a foot long. I get pretty excited about 15-16 inchers. Whitefish are very easy to unhook and release, particularly if you go barbless. They have also saved many a slim trout day! I sort of view whitefish like I view dollies while steelheading. Not what I targeted, but they are right in there with what I'm looking for and, well, a fish on is a fish on! They keep up the interest in between trout or steelies.

    This is everything I know about whitefish. Hope this helps!

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    Member Hunt&FishAK's Avatar
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    ill be saving any whitefish I catch for laker bait and yea im gonna really target them this summer.



    Release Lake Trout

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    Member TYNMON's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Jack Salmon II;705728] The Denali and Kenai whitefish are identical in appearance and fight to the Oregon variety I have caught. I assume they are also Mountain Whitefish, but don't know for sure. They are way more common on the upper than the middle Kenai.
    [QUOTE]
    The whitefish you catch in the Kenai are 1 of 7 spp of Arctic Whitefish Called the Round Whitefish.. In general they are much smaller on average then mountain whitefish and as you pointed out they like slower moving water then mountain whitefish.

    The whitefish that are more common in Western, Interior, and Far Northern Regions of Alaska are Humpback. Broad, Least )Bering & Arctic) Cisco's, Sheefish, and lake whitefish (very sililiar to humpback).

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    Member big_dog60's Avatar
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    From my experience you will have quite the fight on your hands with a 3 wt. They fight MUCH harder then any greyling I have ever encountered. I used various wooybuggers to catch most of mine on the fly. I know that you can catch them on salmon eggs to so maybe some egg paterns will work.

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    Default Definitely go small

    I just got back from a week on the Bitterroot in Montana and definitely had some slim morning saved by whitefish. Usually you will want to stay below a number ten so they can fit in their mouth and the same goes with dry flies....if you get lots of hits that sound like a pop and you are not hooking up....it's probably a whitefish. That said, when they want to they can take quite bigger stuff but you will hook up more consistently with small nymphs. And they will certainly take eggs, but if they are pegged you often miss them because there isn't enough room in their little bitty mouths to take the bead and line above the hook.

    But they are fun, and even kinda tasty when fresh.

  14. #14

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    Thanks guys! Lots of great info and a new challenge to add to the list for this summer. Any timing issues between lakes and streams I should be aware of?

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    Member big_dog60's Avatar
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    That will depend on where you are, but quite often they will move in the fall to spawning grounds.

  16. #16

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    I dont know what kind of whitefish we used to mess with growing up (northern mn), but man alive they were good smoked!

    I'm headed back this spring I'll have to see ifn's I cant figgers it out .

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by TradBow View Post
    ..... but man alive they were good smoked!
    Same is true for all I've eaten in Alaska (cold smoked) and Montana (hot smoked). While I preferred the taste and texture of the cold smoked, the ones in Montana were lightly smoked and canned so bones were not an issue. Still tasty and handy for eating by the fork full.

  18. #18

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    BB, ours were hot smoked...has been a LOT of years! Dont get me going on another hobby

  19. #19
    Member Blade Dude's Avatar
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    About 80% of all the whitefish I have caught were on small (size16-18) nymph and ant patterns

  20. #20
    Member fullbush's Avatar
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    Up at Lake Louise at the end of the road there is that little channel you cross. Well that little lake used to be full of whitefish. I nailed em on dry flys. the fluffiest highest floating flys I had seemed to work the best. They wouldn't jump they'd just suck em down and you had to ever so gently lift your rod to set the hook, if you didn't set it gently the hook would rip right through their mouth.

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