Facebook logo Twitter logo YouTube logo Podcast logo RSS feed logo

Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis; Ojibwa: Adikameg)

Culinary expert Fannie Farmer once wrote that whitefish were "the finest fish found in the Great Lakes." Perhaps she was right, but by how whitefish act, you wouldn't know it. Staying out of the limelight and feeding at the bottom, they're a bit shy. Maybe it's how they look. Often referred to as "humpback," these fish have a small head in relation to their bodies. Maybe they skulk around to avoid a sea lamprey attack. One thing's for sure: you'll know whitefish are a good thing when you've got them ... on your plate.

Before a lake whitefish flops onto a boat and onto a plate, it lives out its life in the cool, deep waters of the Great Lakes or any number of other coldwater lakes from Alaska to New Brunswick.

About Lake Whitefish:

  • They can weigh 20 pounds at maturity (the record was 42.67 pounds!).
  • They live at depths to 60 to 120 feet, swimming even deeper during the summer.
  • They spawn in late fall in shallow (less than 25 feet deep) over rocky or sandy lake floors.
  • They consume insects, freshwater shrimp, small fish, fish eggs, and benthic organisms.
  • They are primarily killed by humans or lamprey when full grown; smaller whitefish are eaten by predatory fish, including other whitefish.

Although millions of pounds of whitefish are harvested from Lake Superior each year, almost none come from Minnesota's waters, which are deeper than the species' preferred habitat.

Whitefish adapts to almost every method of cooking. Its taste isn't its only attractive quality - the whitefish has more omega-3 fatty acids than pink and sockeye salmon. They also contain a healthy amount of essential vitamins and minerals. Not only does it provide all the health necessities, it's also low in dangerous mercury. It has been verified that no upper Great Lakes whitefish exceeds the FDA mercury limit. An added bonus: people living around the Great Lakes can benefit further from consuming whitefish because it's caught, packaged, and sold just a stone's throw away from their back doors, making it one of the freshest fishes in the store.

Fun Fact:

A Lake Superior whitefish entrée won grand prize at a professional chef cooking competition. View the winning recipe, Seared Whitefish with Creamy Grits, Sweet Corn Chow Chow and Poached Herring Butter.

Related Content:


This page last modified on May 04, 2016     © 1996 – 2017 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
Facebook logo Twitter logo YouTube logo Podcast logo RSS feed logo
Logo: NOAA Logo: UMD Logo: University of Minnesota Logo: University of Minnesota Extension