Lake whitefish are biting on Flathead

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Having grown up in the Midwest, I’m quite familiar with the question: “What do you call a dozen tractors in front of an Iowa high school?”

Answer: Prom.

So here’s a question for Flathead Valley fishermen: “What do you call 19 pickups and boat trailers parked at the Big Arm fishing access site at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning?”

Answer: Lake whitefish are biting!

Lake whitefish are a delicate-tasting, hard-fighting fish that reside in Flathead Lake.

In the fall, their annual spawning migration up the Flathead River draws hundreds of spin fishers, hoping to catch a bunch on small leadhead jigs.

In early August in Flathead Lake, those same fish often feed on massive schools of yellow perch fry. Schools of perch fry also congregate the lake whitefish into large schools, making them more accessible to anglers.

In simple math, if there’s a good perch hatch, the whities will congregate.

On the flip side, if cold fronts or high winds in early spring play havoc with perch eggs, there’s a good chance the whitefish will be hard to find in the big lake in August.

And that was the case for several years, up until last summer. So far, this year’s fishing for lake whitefish in Flathead Lake looks pretty good.

We found whities in water depths from 25-60 feet.

Leadhead jigs or custom-weighted lures with treble hooks will fool the fish. Green in the preferred color. No bait is needed.

Limits are liberal. Check the regs. I rarely keep more than a half dozen because fresh is best and that’s about my personal limit for cleaning lake whitefish at one time.

If you’re a newbie to fishing for lake whitefish in Flathead Lake, launch at Big Arm, Wayfarer’s or Woods Bay and join the fleet of boats.

Good luck!

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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