This past weekend Avidfly, Bubbajoe, Mjohnson, and I took off for Green Bay. The goal was to capitalize on the decent Lake Whitefish bite going on out there. Avidfly had been there before and caught Whitefish. Bubbajoe had spent many trips over a couple years to Chequamegon Bay to try (unsuccessfully). I've spent pretty much my whole winter this year trying to find Whitefish on Chequamegon Bay (unsuccessfully). Mjohnson, I'm pretty sure this was his first Whitefish attempt - so you know how that is going to play out...
The plan was to arrive late Saturday and fish a bit, trying to find Burbot on Volk’s Reef. Then the next day we'd fish for Whitefish until late afternoon and then head home. Volk’s Reef was... interesting. Might be the worst ice I've ever watched people drive on. Most of the area was wonky pack ice, the part we fished was 12" of white slush ice with 5" of good ice under that. Pretty much everyone we talked to said they have not caught Burbot with any regularity in the last 15 years in southern Green Bay. We tried anyway – 8 smelt rigged tipups and 4 jigs rods and not a single hit. We did mark some fish on the flashers but no takers.
The next day we had no desire to drive on that ice, nor did we have an ATV or snowmachine. So we rented a shack and ride out to the obvious shanty town near Dyckesville, WI. In the end we probably could have walked it since we could find the Whitefish as shallow as 5 FOW - we were more concerned about the walk to 40 FOW. It was a brisk morning so we started out in the shack before it warmed up enough to be comfortable hole hopping outside.
TonyS with the first Whitefish, always a bad omen
We dropped a camera down an extra hole watched the fish, which was pretty informative. Some would buzz in and make a straight run for one particular jig, fly, or spoon and hit it without hesitation. Others would dink around up and down bouncing from one person’s rig to another and never commit and then just leave. You could tell the fish’s attitude as soon as it came on the camera. It didn’t take long for Mjohnson and I to hook up with our lifer Lake Whitefish.
One of Avidfly's fish with a cool custom ice rod he had just built
The early flurry died quickly leaving two fishless. Then it was hole hopping time – I might have gotten carried away in my love for hand augering holes. Not sure how many holes I drilled but I started running out of room to drill more in the immediate area… It is possible not all of them ended up getting fished but I think most did. In the hole hopping Avid started picking up fish and I ceased to be able to draw any serious customers.
Mjohnson with one of approximately 5 million Whitefish he caught that day
Mjohnson continued to crush. By mid-afternoon Mjohnson had gone about hole hopping quietly beating us all like a rented mule. Bubbajoe had finally worked two Whities back-to-back on the pimple.
Bubbajoe with a very hard earned lifer - much surpressed frustration towards this challenging fish
Finally Mjohnson revealed what he had figured out. We had all been teasing the fish with the spoon – his strategy was the opposite. Once a fish arrived on the flasher he set the spoon on bottom and jiggled the fly, this worked far better on the less aggressive fish. In the final 20 minutes I told him to pick a spot for my final stand, in an attempt to pick up some more. Mjohnson pointed, I drilled, I fished, I caught two more and lost two more in the final stretch.
The standard Green Bay rig is to slide a hook on your line, then a swivel, then 8” of line, and then swedish pimple. On the sliding hook and each hook of the pimple you tip a wax worm. We experimented. For the bottom lure Swedish pimples took fish, so did Halis, and untipped small Jigging Rapalas. For the slider multiple things worked – shrimpos, #16 brass ass flies, #8 beadhead wire worms, and especially a beadhead hair’s ear (probably a #8). Some of the fly/jigs were tipped, others not. Both methods worked.
The coveted Whitefish Whistle
One of our more interesting discoveries was the success of the “whitefish whistle” - red-green-cowbell rig on bobbing hoop with a 6oz sinker. Bouncing it on bottom for a minute or so called fish into the hole more often than not.
Frustraiting as Whitefish are we all said that we'd love to comeback and target them again here. Really a cool fish and interesting fishery. We found some interesting stuff in checking their stomachs too, I’ll put that up in another post.