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Lake Whitefish Ontario 

Lake Whitefish

Coregomrs clupeaformis  Coregonrzs is a name for the Euroopean whitefish; clupeaforrnis means herring-shaped. The body of the lake whitefish is deep and laterally compressed and the back is more or less elevated. In general, the colour is silvery, or white-lustrous with an olive-brown back. The head is small and short. The bones at the front of the upper jaw (the premaxillaries) are wider than long, and their position gives the front of the snout a rounded and somewhat blunt profile. In other words, the snout distinctly overhangs the lower jaw. In the ciscoes (lake herring), the bones in the front of the upper jaw (the premaxillaries) are longer than wide, giving the front of the snout an angular profile

Distribution
In general, the lake whitefish ranges from northern Quebec to the Maritimes, through the Great Lakes northwestward to Alaska, and in inland lakes to Hudson Bay. It is widely distributed in Ontario.

Habitat
Clear, cold waters of the Great Lakes, proper, and deep inland lakes are characteristic habitats of the lake whitefish. They spawn in fresh water and are confined throughout life to lakes and streams. Whitefish living in streams flowing into Hudson Bay regularly descend to brackish water where they spend considerable time, but return to fresh water at spawning time.

Races or types of fish may be produced by the character of the habitat in which they live, for example, water depth. The form and colour of whitefish vary from lake to lake.

Habits
In spring or in early summer, the lake whitefish may inhabit shoal water but, as the season advances and the shoal waters warm up, they move into deeper water. In October and November when the shoal waters become cool again, they move inshore
and spawn over reefs and shoals composed of honeycomb rocks.

About mid-April, the fry hatch, rise to the surface over the spawning grounds, remain for a few days, and then make their way or are carried by the currents inshore,.

Sexual maturity may be reached in three to six years. The spawning run usually consists of greater numbers of older age groups. Spawning temperatures range from 40°F. to 50°F. The earlier temperatures reach these levels, the earlier spawning occurs.

During the spawning season most whitefish have a breeding dress of nuptial tubercles on the head and rows of elliptical pearl organs on the sides. Recorded spawning dates for lake whitefish in certain lakes in Ontario are given in Table ll. The duration of the spawning season is a week or l0 days although some fish may remain on the spawning grounds for a considerable period after the main run starts for the open lake. Spawning occurs after sunset; eggs are deposited in small batches over a period of several days. Because of this, a greater chance of survival of the eggs may result. The proportion of fertilized eggs varies with conditions but, under favourable conditions, the proportion may be high. The eggs hatch in April or May. Table 12 gives the number of eggs produced by an individual fish, and the average weight of the iish in pounds taken from the lakes specified.

Food and Growth
The earliest food of the whitefish consisted almost entirely of the smallest entomostracans occurring in the lake. In its later stages, it may be classified as a bottom feeder, its food consisting of small mollusks, aquatic insect larvae (mayflies and caddisflies) chironomid nymphs, plankton crustaceans, and terrestrial insects. The food items in the diet vary considerably in different lakes, the whitefish showing little selectivity, accepting the most abundant bottom fauna available. The variation in the diet may be reflected in the external appearance and in the quality of the fish. Whitefish eat little during their spawning season but they do eat in the winter. The burbot and the sucker are important competitors of the whitefish for certain items in their diet.

 


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