The lake whitefish is a larger and more widespread fish than are the mountain and the round whiteﬁsh, and it is more highly regarded among anglers. A member of the Salmonidae family, the lake whiteﬁsh is a valuable commercial freshwater ﬁsh in Canada, although its numbers have declined due to environmental factors and overfishing, especially in the Great Lakes. The ﬂesh—prepared fresh, smoked, and frozen—is considered superb in ﬂavor, and its roe is made into an excellent caviar.
IdentificationA slender, elongated species, the lake whiteﬁsh is silvery to white with an olive to pale greenish-brown back that is dark brown to midnight blue or black in some inland lake specimens; it also has white ﬁns and a dark-edged tail. The mouth is subterminal and the snout protrudes beyond it, with a double ﬂap of skin between the nostrils. The tail is deeply forked, and an adipose fin is present.
The lake whitefish is occasionally referred to as “humpback” because the head is small in relation to the length of the body, and older specimens may develop a hump behind the head. It has 10 to 14 anal rays, 70 to 97 scales down the lateral line, and 19 to 33 gill rakers. The body is more laterally compressed than that of the round or the mountain whiteﬁsh, which belong to a separate genus of “round whitefish.”