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Dropping Deep For Whitefish

Lake Michigan.... The name alone can strike a spooky chill down the spine of most anglers. Ice fishing the Great Lakes can be extremely intimidating. A vast desert of white that is as close to what it would be like to walk on the moon as I can imagine. This is one body of water I can say it probably would be a good bet to follow the crowd or hire a guide if you are a first-time angler. There are many guides available to fish Lake Michigan through the ice, and many bite reports and ice reports available if you’d still like to go it alone.

When we fish them, we are looking for the crowds, and then getting outside the group, sometimes as far a half mile to mile away. We search for sharp shelves, with a dramatic change in depth, usually around a 20-30 difference. You can find fish shallow, but we search out the largest fish we can, and to do that, we find it’s best to go deep. We search out our contours in 50-80 feet of water. In water that deep, we need to get to the bottom fast and be able to kick up silt or tap the rock and make noise. To do this, we use Skandia Tungsten jigs in the largest sizes we can get our hands on in a Fire Tiger color. Tip them with multiple wax worms and get to work. You don’t even need electronics to fish whitefish, and we only use them to check our depths. If the fish are there, it won’t take long to get a bite.

You need a longer rod, somewhere in the 28-48” range, with a good backbone, but a super sensitive tip. For this, there is no better rod than the Whip’r Rod by K&E Stopper. These fish are big, but the bite isn’t, usually just a “tap” on the tip, or sudden weight on the end of the line. You need a good reel with a smooth drag, braided line and fluorocarbon or mono leader. Typically, we will use the Viper II reel by Piscifun, spooled with 6lb Nanofil braid and a matching weight, high-performance tippet leader also by Piscifun.

When you see that “tap”, set the hook, and your entire rod will buckle over like you just hooked a submarine. These fish do not have standard air bladders, so they will fight you all the way from the bottom to the surface. Once they are in the hole, it’s not over. They have a remarkable ability to swim backwards and gain line to get back to open water. It’s not over until they are on the ice.

This winter, I recommend trying something new, facing any fears you may have of ice fishing the Great Lakes, and get after some whitefish. Once you have, you will go back again and again. And remember, they are an amazing fish, that is not only fun to catch, but the table fare is great as well. A very mild, light, white meat that can be prepared many ways. Fried, smoked, baked, and even boiled seems to be the favorites.


Story By: Raymond Tiffany

 

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