NWSJ 48-86.indd

February 2015
Northwoods Sporting Journal
Page 47
Jigging for Whitefish
What could be better than
sitting on your snowmobile on
a bright sunny February day on
the upper end of Chamberlain
Lake jigging for whitefish? The
Allagash headwater lakes are the
premier whitefish angling waters
in the State of Maine. Jigging over
a school of feeding whitefish is
about as much fun as I have ever
had while ice fishing.
There is a little bit of a knack
to jigging. Brady Scott certainly
had a knack for catching any fish,
but he could jig whitefish with the
best of them. Brady once told me,
“You need to be able to feel you
lure working around the bottom
of the lake.” He was right; jigging
effectively requires more than an
aimless pulling of the lure up and
down. You need to pull up just as
the lure comes to the end of your
line, with a smooth rhythm. If you
get your lure working right it will
cover a six foot circle on the bottom of the lake.
1977 was the first winter
that I worked on the Allagash
Wilderness Waterway. I took for
granted how good the fishing for
whitefish was. You could stop
almost anywhere on Chamberlain
Lake and jig-up a whitefish in less
than ten minutes, they seemed to
all run about the same size- about
18 inches.
One weekend that winter, as
I was patrolling on Chamberlain
Lake, I checked a couple fishermen
jigging off Donley Point Campsite.
They had caught the biggest whitefish I had ever seen! I didn’t weigh
it, but it must have weighed over
six pounds!
The lure of choice back in
1977 was a gold lead fish, tied to
a cloth line with a stout wooden
handle. As soon as the fish hit, the
handle was thrown to the side and
the fish was brought up hand-over
Methods have been refined
over the years with the Swedish
Pimple being the lure most fishermen use, usually tied to heavy
Get Your
Sweetheart a
for Valentines
monofilament line, on a commercially made jig stick. Most people
attach a small piece of cut bait to
the lure, but I will often jig without
the cut bait. I think the action of the
lure is better without bait attached.
The fishing for whitefish is
not as good as it was 35 years ago
but good catches of native whitefish are still common on Chamberlain, Eagle, and Churchill Lakes.
Whitefish make great table
fare. The firm, white meat, has a
from New Brunswick to British
Columbia and into the Northwest
Territories. In the United States, it
is found in the Great Lakes region
and along the U.S and Canadian
border into Maine. It is the prime
commercial species of the upper
Great Lakes fishery.
In Maine, Lake Whitefish
were once commercially harvested
in Moosehead Lake. Over the last
100 years, whitefish populations
have dwindled to relic numbers
(Picture by of whitefish courtesy Derrick Cote.)
very mild delicate flavor. I have
found that once the fish has been
frozen, the meat becomes soft and
The fishing rules vary from
waterbody to waterbody- check
the law book for the current rules
on the lake you are planning to fish
or view the rules online at: www.
Lake Whitefish are found
throughout the Canadian provinces
in the majority of Maine lakes.
Populations of whitefish are now
concentrated in the headwater
lakes of the Allagash and Penobscot drainages.
Lake Whitefish are regarded
as schooling fishes. They thrive in
the deep, cold, well-oxygenated
water of lakes like Chamberlain
and Eagle. They spawn in tributary
streams in late October through
November or even into December.
Guiding Hun ng
and Fishing in the
Moosehead Lake Region
Bear • Moose
Wayne & Barbara Plummer
Coyote • Hare
Drift Boat Fishing
Kokadjo, Maine
Fly Fishing
AWW Superintendent,
Matt LaRoche, ME
Spawning runs last 5-7 nights,
much like smelt. When no suitable inlet streams are available,
they spawn just as successfully in
the shallows of wind-swept rocky
The Lake Whitefish is perhaps the most prolific of Maine’s
coldwater sport fish. A one pound
female fish may lay as many as
10,000 eggs. They spawn at night
in large groups of paired males
and females displaying a frenzied
ritual of darting and splashing at
the surface of the water. The eggs
are fertilized and broadcast in
mid-water where they settle into
the cracks and crevasses of the
bottom to hatch without parental
care in April or May.
A study by Laval University
at Cliff Lake found that a specific
species of zooplankton was the
dominate food for the first three
weeks after hatching. The young
fish then move into deeper water
to feed on aquatic insect larvae,
mollusks, and plankton. Larger
fish feed on smelts, sticklebacks,
and minnows.
Lake Whitefish normally
live 10 or more years and weigh
1-3 pounds. The state record
weighed 7 pounds 8 ounces, taken
by an angler trolling a Mooselook
Wobbler at Sebago Lake in 1958.
If you would like to try jigging for whitefish in the Allagash
Wilderness Waterway, you can
find a place to park your camper in
the winter campground at Chamberlain Bridge, or you can book
accommodations at one of the
area sporting camps. See: www.
The Allagash Wilderness
Waterway is managed by the
Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau
of Parks and Lands.
For information packet or
general information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, go
to: www.maine.gov/allagash or
call 207-941-4014; or write to
the Bureau of Parks and Public
Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor,
ME 04401.
(*Also Available in Pine)
In Maine’s
Allagash Wilderness
Hundreds of miles of
unplowed roads to explore
in the North Maine Woods.
Cruise the lakes and trails.
Trophy Togue, Brook Trout and
Whitefish Wait For You.
(207) 944-5991 www.nugentscamps.com