"When's the last time you saw a seven-pound whitefish?" WW&W wildlife correspondent and ice fishinista Paris Hiltunen asked excitedly, calling it in from Joshua & Rudy Tikkanen's ice tent out on mostly-frozen Keweenaw Bay where she was snowmobile trolling tent-to-tent, giving free ice drilling demos with her Yiffy.
"It can only be described as a white-hot whitefish bite," she added. "We fished outside for a while, but then a raw wind kicked up so inside the tent we went. That's when the bite turned intense," she joked, "get it, in-tents?"
"Why do they call them whitefish when they're so silvery?" Paris asked innocently. "Their iridescent scales sparkle like jewelry and gleam like polished chrome; best part is they're big and beautiful, just the way I like 'em," she smiled approvingly.
The Brothers Tikkanen were fishing K-Bay off L'Anse, had found a school, and were yiggin' up good-sized whitefish one after another, 20 to 23-inchers, some so lightly lip-hooked they lost them at the hole.
"They have small mouths to begin with," Josh pointed out. "Rudy had one on that was bigger than mine but it came off. He'd hooked several on a small white Frostee yiggin' spoon with white and brown plastic tails."
Lake Whitefish, Coregonus clupeaformis, have been around since the end of the last glaciation, about 12,000 years. According to ichthyologists, they are members of the Salmonid family, as are Inconnu or Sheefish, the "Arctic Tarpon. " Also called the Highback or Common whitefish, they are excellent broiled or fried, and if you ask me, whitefish livers are a delicacy and a treat.
They have a deeply-forked tail, large metallic scales and small mouths with no teeth, feeding mostly on aquatic insects and crustaceans, but have evolved to develop a taste for Swedish Pimples, Hali Spoons, Frostee spoons or pretty much any yiggin' spoon, especially tipped with minnows, Gulp or plastic tails. They are frisky fighters on light ice fishing tackle, making long runs and deep dives, then rolling at the hole where they spit the hook quick if you don't grab 'em quicker. Whitefish live in all the Great Lakes, growing largest in Lake Superior, averaging 22 inches and 3-1/2 pounds, making Tikkanen's 27-1/2 inch, 6.93-pounder a trophy. World record is 14 pounds, 6 ounces.
"I was jiggin' a white Hali spoon with a minnow on the dropper chain when I hooked the near 7-pound hawg in about forty feeta water," Josh volunteered, "You gotta yig deep for them, and tip your hook with live minnows or cutbait," he tipped. "I also caught a 15-inch coho, nice red meat to go with the whitefish."
These are different fish than the popular hammer-handle size Menominee or round whitefish, Prosopium cylindraceum, those good-eating, scrappy fighters running about a pound or two apiece, world record six pounds, that you catch on light spinning gear, maggots and salmon eggs off the mouths of the Gratiot River, Salmon Trout River, Fanny Hooe Crick and McGunn's Crick in the Spring.
"Mosta the ice was new and clear, about 4 inches thick," Tikkanen said . "Then there were a lotta big ice chunks from the recent break-up, with the areas in between new ice," he continued describing the K-Bay icescape. "It was nice fishing the clear new ice because you could see the fish beneath your feet and watch them come up for it. It was easier to hand-auger through too, but then Paris came by and drilled new holes with her Yiffy in a yiffy," adding, "She's the best correspondent you've got."
"I was marking fish and getting them to follow my yig up off the bottom, but they were reluctant biters, no takers at first. Once I got one started, I'd just keep reeling steadily without stopping and they would hit it on the lift. We left around noon because the wind was starting to make the new ice crack a lot."
"So that's what they mean when they say the yig is up," Paris punned.
"Is it true that when you drill down through a foota ice, you can count the rings in the hole and tell how old the ice is, like cutting down a tree?" she asked, forever lusting for knowledge.
In other outdoor news, the new Copper Country Walleye Association will hold its first membership meeting 7 p.m., March 15, at the Chassell VFW. For info, call Ross Rinkinen (370-2341) or find them on Facebook - Copper Country Walleye Association.
Yimmy can be reached in a Yiffy at firstname.lastname@example.org.