WOW Summer Whitefish

Whitefish hit harder in the open water season than in the winter

Ontario whitefish guru, Justin Girard has made a big name for himself catching monstrous bags of giant whitefish in the wintertime. But Girard says as good as the hard water action is across Ontario, it is even better in the summer.

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Ontario whitefish specialist, Justin Girard, says that as good as the hard water action is across Ontario, it is even better in the summer.

"What’s amazing is that you can grab the same gear that you were using for ice fishing," says Girard, whose instructional Justin Girard Fishing YouTube channel is a smash hit with anglers, "put it in the boat and go catch whiteys. I take guys out who use their jigging sticks and ice rods to catch them in the boat."

Now, to be fair, Girard uses convention bass and walleye tackle during the open water season, as we'll discuss in a moment, but he still shakes his head in disbelief that so many Ontario-based anglers miss out on a phenomenal angling opportunity.

"I always start fishing in the boat, where I left off on the ice," says Girard. "and 99% of the time I'll catch fish right there or just a few feet away.

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A whitefish bite feels like perch, and if you get a bite and miss it, Justin Girard says the fish will come back and hit several more times.

"I will get on top of a shoal surrounded by deeper water and work my way from the top to the bottom. On my first trip out a few weeks ago, we caught all of our fish in 28 feet of water. The week after, we caught them at that same depth in the morning, but as the day progressed the fish moved to the edge of the structure and we caught them 69 feet down."

Girard says that when whitefish slowly migrate like this toward the deeper basin, he relies on his sonar unit to find the schools of fish.

"I use my electronics to locate them," he says, noting that, "the best tip I can give anyone is to zoom in to the bottom and keep your foot on the trolling motor pedal.  I glue my eyes to the sonar screen looking for the slightest humps.

"I especially like the split-screen option with two-dimensional sonar on one side and down imaging on the other. I can confirm that I am marking fish. And once I do, it is game on."

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While some anglers use their short ice fishing rods for the novelty of it, Girard relies on a medium or medium-heavy action spinning rod paired with a Daiwa Crossfire reel spooled with 10-pound test Power Pro High Vis yellow line with an 8-pound test fluorocarbon leader.

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Justin Girard ties a Meegs jig to the bottom of a 10- to 12-foot long leader and then adds a drop shot hook about four feet above it

"I like using a long 10- to 12-foot leader," Girard says, "that will make sense when I explain the technique I use. It is a Meegs jig on the bottom with a drop shot hook tied on about four feet above it.

"I like using the drop shot hooks that come with swivels as they keep your bait a little further away from the line and everything is horizontal for an optimal presentation. 

"You can bait the high hook with anything you like, but I have had great success putting on a 2-inch crappie tube. And I always put the same tube behind the Meegs jig.

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Justin Girard has enjoyed tremendous success catching whitefish when he attaches a 2-inch crappie tube to his drop-shot hook.

"And it is funny because I usually catch half my fish on the high hook and half on the Meegs. When I position the boat on a spot I will drop down the Meegs drop shot rig and lift up the tail end of the jig while keeping the nose on the bottom. You just want to wiggle the tail up and down at a steady pace.

"The cool thing about the technique is that while you are bouncing the jig, your high hook bait is creating a beautiful subtle action. So you're multitasking. 

"I honestly believe, as well, that whitefish hit harder in the open water season than they do in the winter. You will still get a ton of short bites that you will miss, but that is the nature of fishing for whitefish. The bites feel like perch, but nine times out of ten, if you get a bite and miss it, the fish will come back and hit a few more times. It is so much fun when they hit it 10 or 15 times and then you finally send the hook home."

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It all sounds too good, right? But Girard says whitefish-filled days are the norm in the summer when he drops down his jig and almost instantaneously hooks a fish.

"Whitefish get absolutely no pressure in the summertime," Girard chuckles, obviously daydreaming about his next trip somewhere in Northern Ontario. "It is just so much fun to play with them."

About Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer is the fishing editor of Outdoor Canada magazine and field editor of In-Fisherman magazine. He is the co-host of the Real Fishing Radio Show and host of Fish Talk With The Doc.

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