Whitefish

Whitefish can be taken year-round by rod-and-reel and may also be taken by spear or bow and arrow from October 1 through March 31 in the UCUSMA with a valid sportfishing license

Whitefish Humpback and round whitefish are commonly found in lakes and rivers of the Upper Copper/Upper Susitna Management Area (UCUSMA), yet many anglers do not think of targeting them. Whitefish can be taken year-round by rod-and-reel and may also be taken by spear or bow and arrow from October 1 through March 31 in the UCUSMA with a valid sportfishing license. Whitefish are an excellent food fish and are commonly smoked, pickled, or canned. In the UCUSMA there is no limit on whitefish and because of this, sport-caught whitefish may be used as bait–where bait is allowed. Whitefish are an abundant species that serve as an important source of forage for both lake trout and burbot and seasoned anglers argue that there is no better bait to use (if permitted) than fresh whitefish when targeting those species.

Sport fishing for whitefish most often occurs in the open water season during early summer or in early winter through the ice, however they can be caught at all times of the year. Although whitefish are often plentiful, they are arguably one of the more difficult fish species to catch by rod-and-reel. Whitefish tend to be finicky and can often be seen swimming by with complete disregard to your lure and when they do decide to bite, their small, soft mouths pose a challenge for successful hook setting and landing. Using light rods and light line greatly increases strike detectability and chances of hooking them. If targeting whitefish, be sure keep your lure small. A micro or crappie-style jig (think 1/16- or 1/32-ounce heads with ½ to ¾ inch grub or tube bodies), size 0-1 spinners, tiny spoons, , small bead head nymphs and scud imitations flies, or a small hook with a single salmon egg can be effective. In lakes, look for whitefish concentrations near stream inlets, pinch points, or in weedy bays. Although they have mouths pointed slightly downward suggesting they are bottom feeders, whitefish will suspend in the water column and can be seen dimpling on the surface throughout lakes on calm days.

WhitefishIn the UCUSMA, whitefish spearing typically occurs in October prior to ice up as fish begin to migrate towards their spawning grounds. Open water spearing generally takes place in clearwater rivers and streams where anglers wade out in waters typically not exceeding 3 feet in depth. This is best accomplished at night with headlamps and is most successful to enter the water downstream of where you plan to spear and wade upstream. As far as equipment goes, you will want to have a spear with tines that are not spread too wide apart otherwise you run the risk of not impaling the fish but instead sandwiching the fish between the tines. The art of spearing usually entails impaling and pinning fish to the hard river bottom. The pinning part is important because it helps push the spear points further into the fish, which is important since the spear tips continuously dull through the process–especially if you are on gravel. Whitefish spearing can also be accomplished on lakes through the ice however, it is likely that the lake bottom will be softer. If this is the case, the use of a heavy, sharp tined spear may be better to impale fish midwater. It is also recommended you tie a line to your spear shaft so it can be recovered if dropped in the lake, below the ice.

The most common locations to target whitefish with a spear in the UCUSMA includes the Slana River, flowing waters of the Gulkana River drainage, and flowing waters of the Tyone River drainage. For angling, whitefish can be found in lakes of all sizes, but common destinations are Lake Louise, Susitna, Tyone and Paxson Lakes.

Courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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