Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis)
AKA: Whitefish, Otsego Bass
Identifying characteristics: Typical salmonid body-shape with visible lateral line and fatty adipose fin. The body is generally silvery-white with a hint of olive and darker olive shading along the back. The fins are semi-transparent, and the dorsal and tail fins are darker than the rest. The eyes are large. The mouth is small (much smaller than a salmon or trout) with small teeth. The tail is deeply forked.
Size: Average 18 inches in length and weighing from 2 to 4 pounds.
New York State record: 10 lb. 8 oz. (8/29/95)
Habitat: Deep waters of cold lakes, reservoirs, large streams, moving to shallower waters or up tributaries to breed in the fall. Often share the same habitat as Lake Trout.
General range: The Great Lakes, some Finger Lakes, some lakes in the Adirondacks.
Food: Primarily small crustaceans, insects, small fish and eggs. They are bottom feeders.
Recommended baiting: Bait the area beforehand with cut up fish and use a sinker to drop a hook baited with fish chunks near the bottom.
Predators: Pretty much all larger predatory fish. Younger whitefish is common prey for larger game fish, including lake trout. Adults tend to avoid predation due to their larger size, but are commonly taken by man.
Stocked? Whitefish maintain wild breeding populations.
Reproduction: Spawning occurs in late fall/early winter. Whitefish will move to lake shoals or up tributary streams. Females deposit eggs on the bottom and the parents leave. Eggs hatch the following spring.
Nesting: Females deposit eggs on the bottom, below their spawning site. This is usually rocky or gravel-covered areas.
Other Info.: Once an abundant native species, but commercial over-fishing, and more recently pollution and competition/predation from invasive species, has significantly reduced their numbers. They are schooling fish, that stick to deep cool waters where they feed on other bottom dwellers. Their deep water preference, small mouths, picky diets, and shy behavior, make them a difficult catch. They are considered a tasty delicacy.