LAKE WHITEFISH (Coregonus clupeaformis)

See also: Yellow Perch, Lake Trout, Northern Pike and Burbot.

One of the most sought after winter sport fish in Lake Simcoe, the abundant Lake Whitefish provides ice anglers with a challenging but rewarding proposition. An opportunistic feeder that can be finicky at times offers up a decent fighting challenge and great table fare. In Lake Simcoe, the MNR stocks approximately 100,000 to 150,000 juvenile whitefish annually and has been doing so for many years now (See the current stocking table). Although stocking occurs, there is a healthy population of wild, natural reproducing fish as well. Recent MNR surveys show that more wild fish are being captured than stocked fish.

Biology: Lake Whitefish are a bottom feeding fish that spawn in the fall when temperatures drop below 8 C in November and December.They typically spawn over rock, cobble and gravel shoals in water less than 25 feet deep. They inhabit the cold, deep waters of the lake but will venture into shallow waters in the spring and fall.

Ontario Angling Record: The largest lake whitefish was taken on March 18, 1996 from Georgian Bay, Owen Sound area. The fish weighed 14.77lbs and was 29.5" long with a girth of 19.8". The fish was caught on a Mr. Champ jig.

Lake Simcoe Size Range: Lake Whitefish average 3-6 pounds but can weigh up to and over 10 pounds.

Lake Simcoe Diet: The Lake Whitefish feeds from the bottom on invertebrates, scuds, molluscs, aquatic insect larvae and small fishes. During the winter on Simcoe, whitefish have been known to feed on emerald shiners, smelt, sculpins, and even the invasive round goby.

Female Lake Simcoe Whitefish feeding on Rainbow smelt and Round Goby

Recommended Equipment: Medium to heavy action ice rod, 2000 size spinning reel spooled with 10 pound super line and 8 or 6lb fluorocarbon leader (18 - 24" in length).

Recommended Baits: A variety of baits can be used to catch lake whitefish through the ice. The most popular baits include:


Emerald Shiners (Small to Medium) tipped on a 3 way spreader, hook and split shot, jig head or spoon. Maggots.

Artificial Bait:

Bad Boys, Meegz, Jigging Rapalas, Nils Masters, Lipless crankbaits. Spoons including Williams Whitefish, Swedish pimple, Small tube jigs, Pearls tied below spoons. Soft plastic goby or minnow imitation baits.

Depth Range: When the icefishing season first opens, most lake whitefish will have just completed spawning and will still be found in shallow water. Target the 30-50 foot range. Later in the season and during last ice, whitefish begin to venture shallow and can be found in the magical range of 30-50 feet. At times, it isn’t uncommon to catch whitefish in depths of less than 20 feet or as deep as 100 feet of water. As a general rule, begin shallow and work deeper until you find an active school of fish. Look for soft bottom to hard bottom transitions; whitefish will swim and feed on these transitions.

Current Lake Simcoe Regulations: Lake Whitefish season is open from Jan. 1 to Mar. 15 and from the 2nd Sat. in May to September 30.

Sport License daily limit is 2 whitefish.

Conservation License daily limit is 1 whitefish.

Special Features: Not only are lake whitefish great fighters, they are also great table fare. If you decide on keeping a whitefish, we recommend keeping “clipped” fish, these fish are stocked and are meant to provide a recreational harvest to anglers. Wild lake whitefish have not been clipped and provide a strong genetic stock of fish that will create a sustainable, naturally reproducing population.

Lake whitefish are commonly mistaken for cisco (lake herring) which also lurk the waters of Lake Simcoe. The key distinguishing characteristic between the cisco and lake whitefish – a whitefish has a pronounced underslung mouth as compared to the cisco.

See also: Yellow Perch, Lake Trout, Northern Pike and Burbot.

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