Description

Appearance

  • Lake whitefish are olive-green to blue on the back, with silvery sides.
  • They have a small mouth below a rounded snout, and a deeply forked tail.

Natural History

Habitat

  • Whitefish are mostly found in larger lakes in Alberta, where they prefer deep, cool water.

Food

  • Mainly bottom feeders, lake whitefish eat crustaceans, snails, insects and other small aquatic organisms.

Reproduction and Growth

Spawning Behaviour

  • Lake whitefish spawn from September through January in water two to four metres (6.5 to 13 feet) in depth.
  • A large spawning migration enters the Athabasca Delta in late summer, moving upstream in the Athabasca River. The longest single movement of a tagged whitefish ever recorded was 388 kilometres (240 miles), from Fort McMurray to the north shore of Lake Athabasca.

Growth

  • Most lake whitefish mature by age-6 or 7; males mature at a younger age than females.
  • Large, old fish may develop a hump behind head (nuchal hump).

Conservation and Management

Status

Lake whitefish are classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management

Fishing

Anglers target whitefish primarily during the winter ice fishery.

Lake whitefish are cold-water game fish subject to current Alberta sportfishing regulations. For details, see the My Wild Alberta website at: