The lake whitefish, a member of the trout/salmon family Salmonidae, has long been a mainstay of local fisherman on Lake Superior because of their exceptional flavor. Ice anglers accidently catch whitefish while chasing perch or walleyes but the ice angler who has learned to fish whitefish successfully will find it well worth the effort.
When fishing for whitefish through the ice, you will need a power auger and a Portable Flasher. A great place to start looking for whitefish is near steep drop-offs and shelves leading into the main-lake basin. As you start drilling holes try to cover different depths and then jig from hole to hole with your Flasher to see if you can find fish. Whitefish can be found in less than 10 feet of water to almost 100, but on Lake Superior the 30- to 70-foot depths seem to be the most productive.
Vertically jigging spoons is the action needed to attract and catch fish. Whitefish are generally thought of as light bitters (which can be true) but in most cases are aggressive towards artificial presentations. Pick the size of spoon that works best for the depth of the water you will be fishing. The general rule of thumb is that the deeper the water the heavier the spoon you will need in order to get down to the bottom and feel fish bite.
When you get to fishing, don't be shy. Aggressively jig baits several times with one to 3-foot lifts and drops. Make sure baits hit the bottom then let the spoon sit motionless. Keep a close eye on your flasher as you jig and see if fish come in suspended. If fish show up above or below your baits, quickly adjust things so that your bait lines up with the level that the fish are at. Most feeding takes place on or near lake-bottoms but on occasion you will catch them up higher in the water column.
The reclusive lake whitefish can be a very worthy target for ice anglers, requiring skill, persistence and a bit of luck. Hopefully this year, you will have the opportunity to chase one of Lake Superior's most under rated game fish.