By Shel Zolkewich
I spent lots of time as a teenager fishing from the Gimli pier. Our quarry was walleye but occasionally there was a surprise on the end of that pickerel rig. A dreaded mariah! To get it off your hook meant having its long tail coil around your arm. They would get thrown back immediately, usually with a few choice words.
Technically, they’re freshwater burbot. But they can also be called lawyers or coney-fish. Down in Minnesota, the go by the name eelpout and there’s even a weekend festival to celebrate the species. Even if anglers can’t agree on a single name, they all agree that this is one ugly fish. It’s been described as a cross between a catfish and an eel. They like the cold, deep water so they’re a common catch during hardwater season. In open water, you’ll sometimes hook a burbot while fishing deep for lake trout.
Often called the poor man’s lobster, I gave burbot a try one day many years ago. There was nothing not to like. A thick white flesh, smooth and buttery, and adaptable to almost any cooking technique. Burbot don’t get thrown back anymore.
Buffalo Burbot Bites
2 medium to large burbot fillets, cut into nuggets
1 cup Original Shorelunch
½ cup milk
½ hot sauce
½ cup ranch dressing
cilantro or green onions
canola oil for frying
Heat canola oil to 375F in a deep pan. Dip nuggets into milk then dredge in Shorelunch. Fry for three to four minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. In a large bowl, mix ranch dressing and hot sauce. Toss in fish and shake to coat well. Top with chopped cilantro or green onions. Makes a great appetizer.