The first time I caught an big burbot, I was amazed at the weird battle that took place under the ice. I was fishing for lake trout on Lake of the Woods at the time on a shoreline point. This section of LOTW had plenty of deep clear water. When I set the hook, I knew it was a big fish but it was not acting like any lake trout I had ever caught. There were wild rolls, followed by a short power surge, then more rolls. When I finally got this beast to the hole, it got jammed sideways, the tail trying to lead the way. One of my fishing partners was there to help, easing this wild looking fish onto to the ice.
As I reached down to grab it, the burbot tried to wrap around my arm, a bit disconcerting to say the least. This fish was a true trophy though, the biggest burbot I have landed to this day.
FISH OF MANY NAMES!
These fish go by a variety of names. Whether you call them Ling, Burbot, Eelpout, Lawyers, Mariah, or Lingcod, or just pout, these worthy gamefish are a sought after winter species by many. I was talking to Al Lindner last week on the phone and he was all excited about heading out near his home town of Brainerd, Minnesota to catch some pout! You might not know this but the Hall of Fame angler really doesn’t like to ice fish very much, so to get him out it has to be a special experience.
BURBOT BECOMING MORE POPULAR NORTH OF THE BORDER
In Minnesota eelpout or burbot are on the top of the bucket list for many ice fisherman. North of the border, not so much. That is changing, though, as anglers become more educated about how to target this species and better yet how good they are to eat.!
While burbot can certainly be caught during the day, they really are a nocturnal feeder which is kind of strange since they don’t see well in low light conditions. From Northwestern Ontario to the Alberta borders, we have good pout water. In northern Manitoba, these fish are abundant, which makes for many a fun day targeting them. On our more southern lakes, many hardcore anglers are spending time after dark catching burbot when they are most active.
TIPS ON TECHNIQUE
Hooked contributor Tom Armstrong, who lives just outside of Thunder Bay, is not far from the shores of Lake Superior. As might well imagine this is prime time pout habitat. He loves to head out a night by snow machine, looking for these fish in bays in about the 20 to 30 feet of water.
Armstrong agrees that burbot are undoubtedly fun to fish for, especially when targeted in the dark of night. In the video below Tom shares information on his go-to method for catching them.
When rigging dead baits for Burbot, there are a couple things that work. My go to rigs are either a quick strike rig, or a single glow in the dark jighead. Something to consider when fishing with dead baits on set lines, is that Burbot are likely to get deep hooked, and having multiple trebles can result in fatally hooked fish. If you plan on taking a few of these delicacies home, that’s all ok, but if you want to release a few fish, consider single jigs or quick strike rigs, reducing the risk of deep hooking fish.
While Tom uses mostly set lines with dead bait in his video many other hardcore pout anglers love to jig for them as well. When fishing for burbot, especially at night, there are a few key things to remember when trying to catch them.
- Use a heavy lure that you can bang on the bottom to attract fish from distance
- Tip with a chunk of bait
- Chum the area with an oily fish like cisco
- Use glow in the dark lures so the fish can hone in on the lure
Burbot can spawn from February on until last ice. When you find a location they use, you could be in for some incredible action. Spawning fish get in real tight schools or balls of fish. While fishing for smallmouth last ice one year near Kenora, I got to experience this first hand. I was fishing a shallow reef that dropped of into deeper water. In late fall the smallmouth had been stacked up on this. I figured they might be there last ice as well. On my first drop, I hooked into something that felt like a freight train. Twelve monster burbot later I was done, my arms sore and my line stretched so badly it was toast.
Early in the ice season, the fish tend to be pretty deep, but come March they move a lot shallower. They prefer using sand/gravel flats in the 10 to 30 foot range.
KEEP SOME TO EAT
Being a freshwater cod, burbot are awesome to eat, you just have to get over the way they look. Anglers will take of the backstraps to keep and boil like lobster. They have firm, white flesh, that when done correctly is absolutely delicious. I found this video online that shows you how to clean them properly. The video shows you how also keep the belly meat, which is worthwhile on a larger fish.
There are a ton of good recipes online as well but the Icelandic way of boiling in saltwater and dipping in melted butter is pretty darn good! Enjoy some of these great gamefish this winter.