Where to catch Lake Trout & Whitefish in western Lake Simcoe, ON.

Posted on January 17th, 2015

Josh-Italo-ColinHello Italo,

My name is Eric Harkonen.  We met you at the show on Saturday this week with our kids.  See pic, attached.  The kids in the pic are 16 and 15 (Josh and Colin).  My friend, Joel (Josh’s dad) is CCed in this email. Talking with you at the show was the hit for us.  Must have been a crazy week for you at the boat show; you must be glad it’s close to over.  Our kids have the signed posters on their walls!

colin_smallieAs we mentioned, we live in Barrie and have been quite frustrated by ice fishing for lake trout/white fish.  The 4 of us go out quite regularly.  We do pretty good in the summer, downrigging with fluttering type spoons (mimicks hearing) but we have been skunked for the past 3 winters!

josh_lakerIt is getting frustrating as we have the flasher and all the lures that people recommend (jigs w/slammers).   You suggested that we email you to give us some pointers.  One of the ideas you mentioned is that the fish are suspended at around 20-30 feet.  I assume location has a big part of it and you know how cluttered that lake can get in the winter.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.  We will definitely get “hooked up” with you on Facebook.

On another note, we fish up in the Elliot Lake area quite regularly.  We get some great sized bass (7lber!) and hooked onto a nice trout just after new Years (13lber).  See pics.



My resoponse:

Hi Eric,

Thanks for your email and the images you attached. I will probably post some on our Canadian Sportfishing website blog. Sounds ike you do well in the summer time for lakers & I think that is largely due to covering water while you are trolling and fishing the right depth to locate fish. In the winter time it’s a tougher since we can’t cover as much water effectively, even if you are a mobile ice angler using a machine/portable/shack/power auger & ice sonar. Here is some valuable information I have learned fishing with anglers who have fished Simcoe for most of their life:

  • When the whole lake freezes, as we have now, and condtions are safe to reach deep-water areas of 50-100’+, both lakers & whitefish will mostly feed in the “main lake basin” (not necessarily the deepest part of the lake)
  • One of the main reasons for this, is this is where most of the smelt (invasive species to Lake Simcoe), imature herring, and shiner species (predominently emerald shiners) inhabit in the winter.  All these “forage fish” will be feeding on small organisms such as copepods (tiny crustaceans), freshwater shrimp, & plankton. The smelt live/feed predominently near/on bottom, while the shiners and lake herring can feed at any depth.
  • Lakers take advantage of the above baitfish by feeding on whatever species is available to them; smelt in deeper water/bottom, shiners & imature herring suspended throughout the water column.
  • Whitefish are bottom feeders that feed on/near the bottom and in some cases even feed on the surface as in the spring when there are major insect hatches like mayflies. For the most part they feed along the bottom on invertabrates (aquatic stages of air-borne insects), crustaceans, copepods, freshwater shrimp & baitfisih.
  • To sumerize, the best locations to find both species feeding is the main-lake basin, but the “spot-on-the-spot”, is locating the structure break where the main-lake basin drops/meets the next shallower layer. This can be the normal contour with a bend, or point that sticks out in the main-lake basin, or humps, shoals and reefs that come up in the open main-lake basin. If you look at a hydrographic chart (paper or Navionics app), you will see that the main-lake basin starts at the 80′ contour line. You will also see that it is closer to shore on the west-side of Simcoe (where you live), than the south or east side of the lake.

Now I will give you specific locations where you should be able to locate both whitefish and lakers going out from your side;

  • Whitefish, 80′ depth between the west shore and Fox Island. If you look on a chart you will see that there, the main-lake basin narrows as it reaches Cooks Bay. This entire area is a “feeding-shelf” for whitefish. One main challenge to locate feeding whitefish is they “move” like walleye. The positive thing is they move in schools, so timing/location is everything.
  • Lake trout, 100-110′ structure breaks out from Lakeview and Oro Station. The key here is for you to look an a chart and see where this depth changes from 90-110′. Remember lakers can swim throughout the water column so it’s OK to jig near the bottom, but every 5 min or so, jig all the way up from 100′ to at least 50′, than let the jig drop right down to the bottom. If you can see your jig on the sonar, in most cases you will see a laker (or more), attracted to your lure either from the top of the water collumn, suspended in the middle, or coming off the bottom. If you see one imediately get your lure to where the fish is and in most likelyhook it will strike immediately.

Lure selection – while many anglers just jig with a Williams Whitefish or Junior Whitefish for both species, many anglers are now using “thumping-style” jigs on the bottom like a Badd Boyz or a Blue Fox Jiggin’ Minnow tipped with a small tube on the back hook. For the lakers, I have found recently that jigging with a 5/8 oz. jighead/4 1/2 plastic swim-bait with a paddle tail works very well, especially in chartreuse or pearl color.

To summarize, I have seen 15lb. lake trout and 4 lb. whitefish caught in less than 15′ of water while jumbo perch fishing in Simcoe, but this is not the norm. I am hoping the above info. will help you. If you go out and fish the spots with this knowledge I know you will catch fish. Looking forward to getting your trophy catch images and bragging about them on our site.

God bless you, italo

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