By Scott Tolentino
Bonneville and Bear Lake whitefish are usually caught by ice fishing (weather permitting) or from boats during and after the Bonneville cisco spawning run in late January. Most whitefish caught are taken by anglers vertically jigging with spoons or jigs. The Bonneville whitefish can also be caught beginning in mid-November through December.
Since Bonneville whitefish typically spawn in rocky, shallow areas near shore, anglers do not need a boat and can catch these fish from shore. A popular method involves wading out into the water until you are about knee deep, then casting small (#0 and #1) silver-colored spinners, small spoons, 1/8 ounce or smaller black or white figs and even sinking fly line with a woolly bugger or bead head leach type pattern. The lure or fly should be allowed to sink to near bottom and then retrieved so it runs close to the bottom. Another fall fishing method is to fish from a boat by anchoring near shore and casting or vertically jigging in shallow water. Most fish are caught between two and 10 feet.
Pound for pound the Bonneville whitefish will rival any other sport fish for its scrappy fight. The bag limit on whitefish is 10 and there is no size restriction. When a whitefish greater than 10 inches is caught you may assume it is a Bonneville whitefish. Currently the state record Bonneville whitefish is four pounds, four ounces. There is currently no registered Bear Lake whitefish state record. Catch and release records do not exist for either species. In order for fisheries biologists to positively identify a state record for Bear Lake whitefish, the fish will have to be caught during the spawning season in ripe condition. Hopefully, with the research that is being conducted, the difficulty in identifying these species will be eliminated.