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Lake Whitefish Natural History, Behavior, Ecology, Biology Etc.

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  • Lake Whitefish Natural History, Behavior, Ecology, Biology Etc.

    Hey Guys,

    I'm looking for some specific information about whitefish and specifically Lake Whitefish or Round whitefish that live in large Oligotrophic lakes around here. I'm having a really hard time finding information about things like where schools of whitefish congregate in lakes, what depths, what types of structure is best to look for? I'm not interested in finding round whitefish in the streams and I'm not asking for names and locations of whitefish. I can figure that out on my own. I am more interested in the biology of Lake Whitefish or at least the species of whitefish that primarily live in lakes up here. I am also more focused on what they do in the wintertime under the ice. Do they typically live in shallow water (0-20 ft depths), medium depths (20-40 ft depths), or deeper (40-100 ft+)? What types of structure should I be looking for? Points, islands, shoals, flats, drop-offs, inside turns, bays, inlets, outlets, saddles, horseshoe traps? Basically I want to know whatever there is to know about whitefish in lakes in the wintertime. Whatever you know and are willing to share please share. There's not a whole lot of information out there available.

  • #2
    Hi Jack
    Not to sure about interior lakes but I know F&G tracks whats happening on the interior rivers. I talked with them this fall regarding the white fish fishery on the Chatanika River. You might contact the biologist at Fairbanks F&G they may be able offer some insight.

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    • #3
      Thanks for your insight putzpilot. Yes I'm familiar the whitefish in rivers. I catch them for laker bait in the fall. But I was actually more interested in the ecology of LAKE whitefish. I know we have them in certain lakes up here (Louise, Paxson, Susitna etc.) but there almost no information at all about them on the internet or any of the books I own. You can find lots of information about them in the Great lakes of the Midwest, but hardly any information about them in Alaska. Makes me think that hardly anybody has ever done any research on them from Fish and Game. Which I suppose makes sense considering they are not a gamefish, but since they are the primary food source of Lake trout and Burbot I would think they are pretty important to understand. If you understand the primary food source, you understand the predator.

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      • #4
        my buddies and i did a bunch of internet searching on them around where your place is and i cant remember where we found it but we found some native articles about how they use to catch them in traps. I think that was on the opposite side of the lake though in the creek mouth when they migrated. I feel like you would almost have better luck trying to find literature on how the natives subsisted in that area to see if they mention anything about them. As in the thread i started before about laker research in the area, i dont think alot of it happens up there because its not one of the prized fish tourists come to catch so FnG doesnt put much money towards the research of them (just my thought). But with how popular the lakers and pout are becoming with residents it would seem like they would start to do more research on them and their food before its too late. and i am talking real research and not just going around and asking people how they are doing or talking with the guide on the lake. Asking a guide how he is doing and trying to come up with a conclusion on how good the fishing is seems pretty bias to me. sorry for the tangent.
        I will never be a "Prostaffer" its not that I am not good enough
        but its because I refuse to pimp products for free.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by kwackkillncrew View Post
          my buddies and i did a bunch of internet searching on them around where your place is and i cant remember where we found it but we found some native articles about how they use to catch them in traps. I think that was on the opposite side of the lake though in the creek mouth when they migrated. I feel like you would almost have better luck trying to find literature on how the natives subsisted in that area to see if they mention anything about them. As in the thread i started before about laker research in the area, i dont think alot of it happens up there because its not one of the prized fish tourists come to catch so FnG doesnt put much money towards the research of them (just my thought). But with how popular the lakers and pout are becoming with residents it would seem like they would start to do more research on them and their food before its too late. and i am talking real research and not just going around and asking people how they are doing or talking with the guide on the lake. Asking a guide how he is doing and trying to come up with a conclusion on how good the fishing is seems pretty bias to me. sorry for the tangent.
          Thanks bro, no apology necessary, I don't think you are going on a tangent at all. I totally agree with you about the lack of research. It's frustrating to me too. I would be interested to read that information you found about the native subsistence fishing. That sounds very interesting. If you find it again please send a link to me email or send a private message. Thanks!

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          • #6
            If you read "Alaska's #1 Guide" about Andrew Berg, he used to put a net out where the Indian drops into Tustumena lake and catch whitefish. It was close to his cabin so that's where he fished. I'm sure he did, but I don't recall him saying if he fished anywhere else on the lake.
            Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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            • #7
              There might not be much info about them up here, but a fair amount of stuff from other states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, etc. I think they're a commercial species in Canada, so I bet you can find quite a bit of info about them in Canadian waters. A lot of that information would likely translate to up here as far as habitats they occupy/basic life history. But from what I can gather, they spawn in the fall to early winter on shallow rocky shoals. So I would maybe start there. If you catch any, assess them for spawning condition to see if you're in the pre/post spawn.

              Also what region of the state are we talking here?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by 4merguide View Post
                If you read "Alaska's #1 Guide" about Andrew Berg, he used to put a net out where the Indian drops into Tustumena lake and catch whitefish. It was close to his cabin so that's where he fished. I'm sure he did, but I don't recall him saying if he fished anywhere else on the lake.
                Cool, I'll keep an eye out for the book. Thanks.

                Originally posted by johnny_reb View Post
                There might not be much info about them up here, but a fair amount of stuff from other states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, etc. I think they're a commercial species in Canada, so I bet you can find quite a bit of info about them in Canadian waters. A lot of that information would likely translate to up here as far as habitats they occupy/basic life history. But from what I can gather, they spawn in the fall to early winter on shallow rocky shoals. So I would maybe start there. If you catch any, assess them for spawning condition to see if you're in the pre/post spawn.

                Also what region of the state are we talking here?
                Thanks. I know there are Lake Whitefish in the Great lakes and lots of info on the whitefish there, but I would suspect that their biology is significantly different than our smaller lakes up here. I grew up fishing on the Great lakes when I was a little kid. My dad trolled for salmon and lake trout with downriggers and the whole nine yards. It's more like fishing in an ocean than a lake. But thanks for the suggestion.

                The whitefish in Montana I think are either mountain whitefish or pygmy whitefish. That's a whole different situation. I'm more interested in Lake whitefish specifically in Alaska or Northern Canada. Thanks for the tips though. Definitely a start.

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                • #9
                  Lake whitefish in Montana

                  Originally posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post

                  The whitefish in Montana I think are either mountain whitefish or pygmy whitefish. That's a whole different situation. I'm more interested in Lake whitefish specifically in Alaska or Northern Canada. Thanks for the tips though. Definitely a start.
                  There are lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) in certain lakes/rivers in Montana, they are native to the St Mary's drainage of MT (flows into Canada) and non-native in Flathead Lake. There is a popular sportfishery for them in Flathead Lake. Best fishing for them there is in late summer when they are staging near inlets, 20-100 feet of water, using rattling vertical jigs. Dark green 3/8 or 1/4 oz. "Rattle Snakies" or Dick Zimmer tackle rattle jigs were what we always used. We would often catch them through the ice in bays in the winter as well (5-40 feet of water), when targeting lake trout. Rattle snakies or white tube jigs were effective through the ice.

                  I've tried using Rattle Snakies in AK but only ever caught lakers on them.

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