Lake Whitefish: Tips and Tricks to Catch Whitefish in Spring

Lake whitefish are a common fish for anglers from the US and Canada. You’ll find them fun to catch, regardless of whether you fish on the open water or through the ice.

Although whitefish is primarily a commercial fish, many sport anglers are gradually becoming more comfortable with them. They’ve found that lake whitefish, especially on the Great Lakes are great for spring fishing when they consume mayfly larvae.

Are you able to take advantage of every opportunity? What lures and techniques are best for lake whitefish?

We are here to help. Below, you will find our top whitefish tips and tricks that can tilt the odds in your favor.

Lake Whitefish Basics

Lake whitefish (or Coregonus Coregonus Clupeaformis) is a member of the salmonid family. It will be at home in clear, cool waters, just like its close relatives, the salmon, and the trout.

Long upper lip? Adipose fin A silver-white body? A lake whitefish is what you have!

Lake whitefish are easy to identify. You will find a long, slim body with silver-white scales and a dark greenish back. There is also a dorsal fin between the tail and dorsal fin.

Lake whitefish grow to an average of 20 inches in length and can weigh up to 4 pounds if they are allowed to breed. A record-breaking 15 pound, 6-ounce lake whitefish has been caught on rod and reel.

This beauty was taken from Lake Michigan.

Whitefish spawn in fall. They sneak into shallow waters under the cover of darkness to lay eggs, before returning to the deeps. These eggs hatch next spring and the fry start to eat plankton.

As they grow up, they will start preying on small insects like clams and mussels. The lake whitefish is alerted when mayflies buzz over the water.

Spring is a great time to target this species because emerging mayfly larvae are a feast when the water warms.

This is what you should see when your cooler’s lid opens!

“Warm” can refer to relative temperature. These cool-water fish will often seek shelter in deep holes during summer, even though they can be found at the banks of streams in spring.

Some predators are more aggressive than whitefish, including the pike. These predators are also present when whitefish are eating, and you can bet that hungry whitefish will be near them whenever you see them.

This means you will have to deal with pike eating your whitefish lures!

What does this mean for you?

Whitefish are easier to catch in spring when they are actively eating insect larvae or adult mayflies.

Whitefish are more likely to be found in deep water than they are in spring, where they hunt for easy meals in the shallows. You’ll also find hungry pike wherever you look!

Rods and Reels to Lake Whitefish

Lake whitefish can be caught using ultralight gear for maximum excitement. Even a large brute can be controlled by a 6-pound test, a suitable drag setting, and good technique.

We have reviewed some excellent ultralight options. If this interests you, we suggest you check out our article on reels as well as that about rods.

The Cadence CS8 1000 reel is one of our top picks. I would pair it with the Cadence C5 7 foot ultralight rod. The combo will not break the bank but will catch whitefish. Each one will feel like a humpback!

The light to medium-light power rods can also be a good choice. I love the Ugly Stik Elite 7-foot medium weight. The 7-foot St. Croix Mojo Inshore, a medium-light rod, is a great choice if you’re looking for a premium rod. They cast beautifully and provide plenty of support for whitefish, even the largest.

A whitefish’s worst nightmare is a rod that has a reel of quality like Cadence CS8 2000, 3000 or Pflueger President 30,

Lake Whitefish Tips

Whitefish isn’t piscivores and although some anglers may throw them minnows to get a bite, it is not the best way to catch one.

Remember that whitefish are natural prey for small insects such as mayflies, larvae, and other insect species in spring. This will be reflected in your lures.

The whitefish’s spring prey is this adult mayfly.

Whitefish love larvae as they are prime food when the water is warm.

Marabou jigs underneath a slip flotation

A marabou jig’s feathery skirt is perfect for attracting lake whitefish to strike. J S Hanmei has a nice selection of colors and a random assortment 1/16, 1/32 and 1/32 ounces jig heads.

The Lindy Little Nipper is another solid option. You can choose from a variety of colors and 1/16, 1/32, or 1/64 ounce weights to find the right size and color for you whitefish fishing spot

A slip float is the best way to catch lake whitefish with a marabou bait jig. Lindy’s Thill Mille lacs Center Slider Kit is my go-to, matching the weight of my float with the jig’s

These floats are of high quality and easy to cast. Keep in mind that you are working in shallow water, where whitefish are searching for insects. Slip floats are great for keeping your jig suspended at the right depth. With a few pops of the float, you can draw a lot of attention.

Slip floats are a great way to reduce the number of pike for most anglers.

Waxworms and fish eggs are caught on hooks with slip floats.

Under a slip flotation, a #6 circle hook tipped with fish eggs or waxworms works well. Slip shot can be used to give the hook weight or sweeten a marabou-jig using either bait.

Both lure whitefish in for a bite and the small self-hooking designs work well for locking up solidly. Remember to not set your hook, but tighten your line.

In-line spinners

When whitefish are aggressively feeding, dressed Mepps spinners such as the double-bladed Aglia or the Aglia can come in handy.

Worden’s Original Rooster Tail is also a favorite of mineWorden's Original Rooster Tail yellow

You can get nice fish with 1/4 ounce and 1/8 ounce options.

Pike also love in-line spinners. This is the only problem with them. You can expect a few bites.


Experienced whitefish anglers know that a simple lure that looks like an adult larva can be a great tool.

Begin with a #6 hook and, using either a normal vice or fly-tying vice, wrap colored wire tightly around shank. Next, use pliers to cut the wire straight and pinch it flat.

To enhance the appearance of your wireworms, you can add beads.

These tutorials will show you step-by-step how to do it.

These wireworms can be suspended under a slipfloat to make magic! Simply suspend them about a foot from the bottom and allow them to rest. It will be amazing what happens.

Last Thoughts

It’s not surprising that whitefish anglers are looking for tips and tricks as they discover the joy of catching them.

We hope you find this information helpful.

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Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.