Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Am Ahab and I Seek the Whitefish

It's been a while blog, but here is something I have been thinking about a lot.
The lake whitefish- Coregonus clupeaformis  photo from
I don’t have a lot in this world. I don’t own a home, I have never had a real career, and I don’t have a family, which is unlike most folks my age. In all fairness, those things might never happen. But what I do have is fishing. I suppose “I fish, therefore I am” could be a motto for my life. I guess it is appropriate that I hope that my legacy will be fishing related. I suppose that is one of the reasons why the Vermont Master Angler Program has become so important to me. Catching all of the species in the program before anyone else is a lasting accomplishment that I have hoped to hold.

In 2015 I added 4 new species to my list- the smelt, walleye, muskellunge and channel catfish. I have used methods that were new to me, notably fishing with live and dead bait and ice fishing. That brings my total species count to 29 leaving 4 left to catch: the American shad, pike/pickerel hybrid, cisco and lake whitefish. I have caught both shad and hybrids in Vermont and I am confident that I can get ones of sufficient size to enter in the next year. The cisco will be a challenge but guys who troll the lake get them and I have made a few friends with those guys so I should be able to get that done. Which leaves the lake whitefish.

I have put a lot of time and effort into searching for the lake whitefish. It is actually a fairly common fish in the lake. It used to be commercially fished in Lake Champlain, as late as the 1990’s in Missisquoi Bay. People got them with some regularity when there were smelt in good numbers in Lake Champlain, but with the introduction of alewives into the system in the early 200’s the whitefish has become very elusive. Studies done by UVM in the past 6 to 7 years show that the fish are still out there and there are some big specimens. Catching one while targeting whitefish seems to be another story.

My nemesis- courtesy of
I have put in dozens of days on the ice, walked at least a hundred miles on frozen Champlain ice, and drilled hundreds of holes, many by hand. I have been dehydrated, wind burned, frost bitten, soaked to my core. Right now I am sore from dragging a sled 15 miles over the past three days, I have blisters on my feet and just a few perch for all the effort I put in. I have been fishing in places they have been caught by anglers as well as in nets by biologists. I have tried many different lures and baits. Nothing so far. And just two days ago a very large specimen was caught by a young angler fishing perch. Most of the catches I keep hearing of over the past couple of years are incidental catches by people not fishing for whitefish but by folks chasing perch, lakers, walleye, etc.

I have had a great deal of support from folks, friends, family and people in the fishing community. I have had some great information shared thanks to great folks on internet forums (thank you all again!) and some less than helpful information from the same sources (gotta love armchair experts that talk like they know a lot about something they no nothing about). But with all of that I still feel no closer to catching a lake whitefish.

So, I guess here is my plea, to my fellow anglers, to Lake Champlain (where my heart and soul resides) and to the Cosmos- please let me get one lake whitefish out of Champlain that is over 22”. Seriously. And if you know anything about where and how to get one please email me at

Let my legacy move forward please.