Whitefish not so easy to catch, say local fishing experts

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Where are the whitefish?

Each fall, many thousands of lake whitefish migrate up the Flathead River system from Flathead Lake on a spawning trek.

Lake whitefish are broadcast spawners, meaning when they find a suitable and acceptable gravel substrate, eggs and sperm are deposited into the water. No redds are formed.

According to Dennis at Snappy Sports Senter in Kalispell, fishing for these tasty fish has been “tempermental.”

“Even guys who have been fishing every day may get only one or two fish — but there are reports of whitefish all the way up to Blankenship Bridge.”

Fishing for lake whitefish generally starts in October and continues through Christmas. My calendar has shown peaking the first week in November.

Lake whitefish are generally caught by slowly dragging leadhead jigs near the bottom of deeper holes where the fish appear to be resting and staging.

The fish hit jigs out of curiosity and anger, not hunger, so bait is not needed.

Here’s theories why we aren’t hammering the whitefish:

1) There are only small numbers of fish in the river above Old Steel Bridge now. Larger numbers are awaiting a surge of higher water to stimulate them to move upstream.

2) Normal numbers of lake whities are already in the river, but the river bottom has changed, so they aren’t hanging around the same spots as in previous years.

We were spoiled for years when the best jigging was immediately below the Old Steel Bridge and on the east shoreline downstream from the Highway 35 Bridge.

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

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