Post date: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 14:43
Updated date: 2/6/17
Cisco or Tullibee - Coregonus artedi

The Tullibee or Northern Cisco is a streamlined, silvery fish with grayish fins and 36–50 gill rakers (usually 43). The Tullibee is the most common species of whitefish in our area. They occur in many of the deep, cold lakes of the north, as well as in the Great Lakes. They are often targeted in the wintertime, by fishing over mud flats with flashers and waxworms. Tullibees form an important part of the diet of all large predators wherever they are found. And as for taste, smoked tullibees cannot be beat.


Other Names:  Tullibee, Grayback Tullibee, Cisco, Northern Cisco, Common Cisco, Shallow-Water Cisco, Great Lakes Cisco, Herring, Freshwater Herring, Lake Herring, Sand Herring, Chub, Grayback, Grayback Herring


The OJibwe call this fish Okahawis.




Tullibees live in deep, cold lakes. They are true pelagics, staying deep throughout the year. They roam the deep open water, far from any structure, feeding chiefly on plankton and insect larvae. That's the trouble - because they don't relate to structure as other fish do, there's no way to know where they will be at any given time. You have to search a wide area to find a school - and the bigger the lake, the harder this is (with a few exceptions). Look for deep bowls in the lake bottom, or steep-sided points that stick far out into the lake. It's not as if the tullibees relate to these structures - it's just a natural place to start your search. Take your time, cover the water - and don't get frustrated. Once you're on a good school, it's easy to catch a hundred or more per day - so be persistant! Tullibees spawn in the fall, with vast schools of them congregating on shallow rock reefs to lay their eggs. Giant pike and muskies follow the spawners and stuff themselves with these rich morsels. In the summertime, certain lakes can grow too warm for tullibees to survive, resulting in a "summerkill" of these fish.


Wintertime is the best time to go after tullibees and the other ciscos. Vast schools of them roam the depths, feeding on insects larvae, small crustaceans, and zooplankton. Deep, silty mud flats are good places to look for them.T On an ice-fishing sonar, they stick out like a sore thumb, travelling well above the bottom where they are easily marked. Tie a hookless spoon (called a flasher) about a foot up from a dropper (a fly or tiny jig) tipped with a waxworm. Once a cisco is hooked, others are sure to be nearby, so a sneaky tactic to increase your cisco catch is to keep jigging as the hooked one is fighting on your second line. You can often reel in a double this way, if you don't lose your rod down the hole! Ice-fishing for ciscos is really fun, and the action can be very fast as a school moves through and everyone hooks up. The trick is moving around until you find the ciscos, then sticking with that spot, moving only when the action stops completely. Ciscos up to 4 pounds have been caught, but most of the fish you'll catch will be about a pound in weight and 14-16 inches long.

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