Every fall many thousands of lake whitefish leave Flathead Lake to make to make their spawning trek up the Flathead River.
For shorebound anglers, the migration offers a rare opportunity to catch these hard-fighting, tasty fish.
According to Chancy Jeschke at Snappy Sports Senter in Kalispell (257-7525), “Lake whitefish are in the river now in pretty good numbers.”
Jeschke recommends casting a 1/8-1/4-ounce leadhead jig with a Pete’s Craw or tube tail. Gitzits also work.
Green is the most productive color and when asked why, Jeschke replied, “I have no idea!”
“In the river, lake whitefish hang in water 10-15 feet deep, but the jig doesn’t have to bounce on the bottom,” said Jeschke. “Try to keep the jig a couple of feet above the bottom.”
Whitefish are resting in these spots on their way upstream to suitable spawning gravel sites.
“Look for big eddies and backswells, where the water is slower and deeper than the main current.”
While lake whitefish may bite all day long, the early morning-first-light-bite is generally the most consistent.
More words of advice from Chancy, “Take a long-handled net because it’s easy to lose fish right on the shoreline.”
The Old Steel Bridge area, east of Kalispell, is a good spot for newcomers to lake whitefishing to watch how (and where) more experienced anglers fill their buckets.
I’ve also seen anglers fishing off the Highway 2 bridge, east of Columbia Falls, but it seems there are different people almost every time I drive by.
Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.