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Lake Whitefish and Mayflies

The average length of the Lake Whitefish is 15 inches and seldom weighs more than 15 pounds although the generally accepted commercial weight is 2 pounds. An older fish will develop a hump behind the head. The overall coloration is silvery with a pale greenish brown to light or dark brown back.

The Lake Whitefish is widely distributed throughout British Columbia and Canada.
Spawning occurs in the fall in shallow waters at depths of less than 25 feet. The female Lake Whitefish lays 16,100 eggs per pound of fish and loses roughly 11% of her body weight at this time. This species is predominantly a bottom feeder. The major predators are lake trout, northern pike, burbot, yellow walleye, and even whitefish themselves.

The Lake Whitefish is the most valuable commercial freshwater fish in Canada. Sport fishermen actively enjoy the catch of this fish and report the flesh as an exceptionally fine flavor. Whitefish eggs are sometimes marketed as caviar.

Since Whitefish are a deep-water fish and go deep during the summer. Its recomended using a 3-way swivel system with a Zero Mepps, Blue Fox, or small black and silver Rapala. You can troll very slowly in about 35-55 feet of water. Small baits and lures must be used to catch this fish. Whitefish will sometimes hit a bigger lure like a Rapala or Thunderstick but generally the hooks on these lures are too big for the whitefish’s tiny mouth.

When the May Flies start to hatch, the Whitefish will move out of the rivers and stay just below the surface of the lake feeding on the hatching flies. When the May Fly hatch is complete, the Whitefish go deep.

You can catch Whitefish on the surface in the spring with small spinners, 1/16 oz jigs, tiny Rapalas or putting a May Fly or Waxworm on a hook and a small float and just cast off the dock. Generally, the Whitefish will be everywhere there are large populations of May Flies hatching on the surface. This is a perfect time for Fly-Fishing for Whitefish with your fly-rod.

Use your regular fly-rod and regular line but the lead line should be 4 pound test. Use a fly that looks like a May Fly. Other flies might work well but remember, the Whitefish’s visual acuity this time of year is for the shape and movement of the May Fly.

Mayfly, common name for delicate insects that often emerge in great numbers from lakes, streams, and rivers. The approximately 1500 species range in length from 1 to 3 cm (0.4 to 1.2 in) and have two or three long tail filaments; transparent, upright forewings; short antennae; and bulging, light-sensitive eyes. Both adults and larvae are important food of trout; because of this, artificial lures have been patterned after mayflies for more than 400 years.

Mayflies usually spend one to three years as underwater nymphs, breathing by means of gills and feeding on microscopic plant life. After 10 to 20 molts they emerge from their nymphal skins on the water surface and fly to nearby plants, where they go through a last molt, shedding their downy, waterproof skins. (Mayflies are the only insects to molt in a winged stage.) Now fully adult, they cannot feed, but instead they form male and female swarms that mate over water. After mating, the males die; the females live a few more hours, depositing the eggs in water and thus starting the next generation of nymphs.

Mayflies are among the oldest insect groups and have been found as fossils dating from about 300 million years ago. At lake and river resorts, expiring mayflies often accumulate in “snowfalls” under outdoor lighting.

Thank you for your comments. Al and Doris.


By Michael Holte | April 16, 2021 at 11:12 pm

To catch a four pound whitefish on a may fly and fly rod is one of the most thrilling fights you can find. Expect a good twenty minute fight and three to four jumps and if you're lucky you'll land a real fly fishing trophy. Its a very short window each year that this action is available, but once experienced you won't soon forget it. Usually the last two hours of daylight are your best opportunity. May is the time to get after them during the May fly hatch.

By Fly Addicts | May 23, 2020 at 9:18 am

This is probably the most "it actually makes sense" kind of post I've seen on on this subject. Best part... I didn't have to go digging through some weird web design to find it. Awesome! Please keep posting new material!

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