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Lake Erie whitefish


jimski2

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Canadian commercial fishermen harvest one million dollars of whitefish annually and export mostly them to the USA. American  hook and line anglers have forgotten they exist out there in the lake, Meegs fish lures on the You Tube have videos from Lake Simcoe on the best method they have developed. Search out their site and other lakes from Montana on better methods on catching cleaning and cooking whitefish.

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Canadian commercial fishermen harvest one million dollars of whitefish annually and export mostly them to the USA. American  hook and line anglers have forgotten they exist out there in the lake, Meegs fish lures on the You Tube have videos from Lake Simcoe on the best method they have developed. Search out their site and other lakes from Montana on better methods on catching cleaning and cooking whitefish.


Was there a time when people caught them frequently here in the eastern basin?

A local canadian guide caught one in the upper niagara last week


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Dunkirk,, NY had. Fleet of steam and diesel fish tugs that shipped the whitefish to NY city on the Erie RR that built the city pier years ago. They were iced down with ice harvested from Lake Erie in the winter, the DEC fishery office was originally a whitefish hatchery.


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definitely a super cool fish, one of my favorites. 
 

Lake Whitefish are in Lake Ontario but numbers are low, current research is looking at spawning habitat as an issue.

 

this link is to a report on the historic Lake Erie Cisco and Lake Whitefish fisheries, its is a cool read , especially the pics of the boats and landings

https://pubs.usgs.gov/unnumbered/81373/report.pdf

 

there is a very substantial sport fishery for them in  a bunch of places like the Detroit River, Luddington, and the Green Bay ice fishery has been hot , YouTube has a bunch of videos showing angling.

 

I’m always interested in talking Whitefish and the potential to bring them back in Ontario 

 

 

 

 

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The collapse of the commercial fisheries after 1955 was an explosion. of a foreign invader, the rainbow smelt. Stocked in a Michigan lake as forage for lake trout harvest, these little monsters decimated the cold water species such as blue pike, whitefish, ciscoes, walleyes, Lake Trout, etc. Two things happened in the early 1960's, Canadian trawlers targeted smelt for export to Asian Markets and Salmon stocking began. The "dead lake" started to return with the smelt biomass reduced. The smelt feasted on the fry and minnows especially in the colder waters of Lake Erie. Lake Ontario was shut down due to waste chemicals there. But a salmon/  trout stocking programs there turned things around with forty pound salmon caught. As the forage base was reduced the numbers of salmon and trout stocked in all the Great Lakes became controlled but good numbers are available. Alewife are plankton feeders and they thrived to feed the salmon and trout numbers. I can remenber while ice fishing, the smelt were so numerous your minnow could not reach the lake bottom for perch fishing. The blue pike disappeared slowly as small blues were caught less but remaining lager blue pike disappeared completely. Canadian smelt trawlers loaded their deck space solid over two foot deep for years. They still do that today.

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The large smoked whitefish Wegmans are caught with larger mesh gill nets in deep lake waters. The plastic net floats are crushed by the pressure there so only cedar or aluminum floats are used on the nets. Originally the nets were constructed from linen table cloths threads from the wives table. No nylon was available then.

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They used to be in some of the Finger Lakes including Canandaigua Lake along with Walleyes but I think the introduction of alewives signaled the end to both of them.

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  • 11 months later...

I decided to 'stoke' this discussion because i just discovered it. We go out to Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin every winter to icefish for Whitefish after 2 trips to Simcoe with poor results using the Meegs jigs and some other presentations.. We like to target them when they are 'on the reefs' in 60-80' fow with what's called a 'dropper rig'. They are a hard fighting fish with a very subtle jig bite. They are feeding mostly on gobies there. I clean them very carefully, rinsing and drying before vacum sealing in Wisconsin and transport back in a large cooler full of snow. i am a Swede and my entire extended family looks forward to my annual smoking of these fish the week before Christmas. I have attempted to figure out where on Erie the Canadians catch Whitefish with no success. If anybody has any hard intel on Lake Erie Whitefish I'd really like to hear about it. I have a part time charter biz for  Walleye on Erie, and Trout/Salmon on Ontario. I do keep a Sportsman License for Canadian water.

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The only whitefish commercial outfits I have seen was along the UP of Michigan. Nets go out in the fall to match the fish movement inshore to spawn on reefs. The boats bicatch was often dark kings. Not a fan of gill nets but smoked whitefish is yummy. 

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In Quebec at Lake Chibougamau 300 ,miles north of the USA line we caught them once in a while.  Most on the inline niteiy rig but some on rapalas on the big side and a few on real big plugs and spoons.  Had a hard time figuring out why they even hit the big lures with such a small mouth, they taste GREAT.  WE would go 5 or 6 trips with none than catch one or two.  They were rare to our style of walleye pike fishing though.......jk

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Whitefish in Lake Erie yielded a one million C. Dollar market last year for their commercial fishery. The invader smelt stocked by the Michigan Fish Agency decimated the cold water species in Lake Erie in the mid 1950's but came uder control by Canadian  trawlers and salmon and trout stocking programs. American sport fishermen forgot how and where to take whitefish in Lake Erie. They are there though.

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Watching local Lake Simcoe anglers catch whitefish, a trip to the local library revealed their secrets.  They salt the bottom below their hole with salted emerald shiner minnows on the bottom. They build a brass rod and solder treble hooks on it, drop it to the bottom and lift it sharply to catch whitefish attracted to their bait pile. Legal? I do not think so. But lifting jigging plugs and spoons may work.

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22 hours ago, Jomat said:

I can tell you the commercial perch fisherman in Barcelona also sells smoked whitefish out of his processing shop.  I don’t know if he catches them there as bycatch or purchases from the Canadians, might be worth and inquiry.

I've been there before, he get's his whitefish from Canada.

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On 12/24/2021 at 3:55 PM, chowder said:

I decided to 'stoke' this discussion because i just discovered it. We go out to Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin every winter to icefish for Whitefish after 2 trips to Simcoe with poor results using the Meegs jigs and some other presentations.. We like to target them when they are 'on the reefs' in 60-80' fow with what's called a 'dropper rig'. They are a hard fighting fish with a very subtle jig bite. They are feeding mostly on gobies there. I clean them very carefully, rinsing and drying before vacum sealing in Wisconsin and transport back in a large cooler full of snow. i am a Swede and my entire extended family looks forward to my annual smoking of these fish the week before Christmas. I have attempted to figure out where on Erie the Canadians catch Whitefish with no success. If anybody has any hard intel on Lake Erie Whitefish I'd really like to hear about it. I have a part time charter biz for  Walleye on Erie, and Trout/Salmon on Ontario. I do keep a Sportsman License for Canadian water.

Chowder. I run charter out of Dunkirk and also grew up knowing the gentleman whom ran the Argo for years. I know he had attempted to try to open water fish for these several times. I do not believe he was successful. The Argo netted whitefish I believe trying to target brown trout west of Dunkirk off Portland. I was discussing how I struggled to catch Walleyes on a certain drop and he informed me those fish I was marking were mostly whitefish and some browns. From my understanding of our conversation there is a large population. 

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My whitefish gill nets which I purchased at Port Dover were 4 and 3/4 inch stretched net fine thread. About twenty foot deep they had aluminum corks that did not crush at the deep water they were set at. Dunkirk had over 200 fish tugs who supplied the East Coast communities with whitefish that were packed in ice. The ice was harvested in the winter by local men and stored in a local ice house for the railroad shipping. Fresh whitefish were preferred over the salt cod from New England ports as ice was unavailable there in the summer. Meegs lures out of Orillia, Ontario has a video on catching whitefish from Lake Simcoe.

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Get on You Tube and search out Meegs Jigs Whitefish. This is a starter and there out other sites also from Wisconsin, etc. Whitefish Lake Simcoe works. Smoked whitefish sell at Wegmans now for over $20.00 . You can clean them using a scrub brush on the innerds. Overnight them in brine or a special cure. Smoke then hanging from metal hooks you can make. Apple, cherry wood is preferred.

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As I said in my post, we went to Simcoe twice and were unsuccessful using the Meegs jigs . After talking with folks there it seems like the whitefish bite can be rather fickle on Simcoe. Consequently we shifted our efforts to Sturgeon Bay on Lake Michigan. There is a local operation that has a fish processing line he uses during the fall to process his own catch that is sold commercially. During the ice season he uses the equipment to custom pack icefisherman's catches. He does a brisk business.

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In the September issue of DEC's "Fishing Line," the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit gave this report and it included some interesting whitefish intel:  

Lake Erie Coldwater Fish Community Survey - August 2021

Lake Whitefish

DEC’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit completed it annual assessment of the Lake Erie coldwater fish community this August. The survey catches a variety of species including lake whitefish and burbot, but its main target is lake trout and determining the status of the population compared to the restoration goals. Lake trout also provide a measure of sea lamprey wounding that helps determine the success of lakewide treatments to control their populations.

While large lake trout - some weighing in excess of 22 lbs. - were the main species caught during the 2021 survey, the highlight was an abundance of lake whitefish. Lake whitefish populations in Lake Erie are increasing in recent years due to several good hatches. Worth noting was the capture of one large lake whitefish that weighed in excess of 11 pounds – larger than the state record by over half a pound!! Lake Erie is well known as a destination for its walleye and smallmouth bass fisheries, but anglers looking to catch trophy-sized lake trout that average over 10 pounds might want to add the deep waters of the Eastern Basin to their fishing wish list.

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3 hours ago, yogibare said:

In the September issue of DEC's "Fishing Line," the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit gave this report and it included some interesting whitefish intel:  

Lake Erie Coldwater Fish Community Survey - August 2021

Lake Whitefish

DEC’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit completed it annual assessment of the Lake Erie coldwater fish community this August. The survey catches a variety of species including lake whitefish and burbot, but its main target is lake trout and determining the status of the population compared to the restoration goals. Lake trout also provide a measure of sea lamprey wounding that helps determine the success of lakewide treatments to control their populations.

While large lake trout - some weighing in excess of 22 lbs. - were the main species caught during the 2021 survey, the highlight was an abundance of lake whitefish. Lake whitefish populations in Lake Erie are increasing in recent years due to several good hatches. Worth noting was the capture of one large lake whitefish that weighed in excess of 11 pounds – larger than the state record by over half a pound!! Lake Erie is well known as a destination for its walleye and smallmouth bass fisheries, but anglers looking to catch trophy-sized lake trout that average over 10 pounds might want to add the deep waters of the Eastern Basin to their fishing wish list.


Wow! This explains a lot. We have fished over some crazy graphs on Erie without catching and we thought they might be whitefish or Gizzards 

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You Tube has many sites for fishing for Whitefish not only all the upper lakes. Search out whitefish jigs, whitefish fishing methods, etc. There are hours of viewing for you while you are waiting for ice if it happens here this year. Upper Lake Huron and Lake Superior have ice now.

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