Fishing a bait near the bottom at Aerobus Lake in Northwest Ontario, something on the end of the line put up a pretty good fight. When It finally was lifted into the boat, the response was, “What the heck is it?”
It probably weighed about two pounds, and was strange looking and ugly. It looked like a catfish crossed with an eel It was a burbot.
Burbot also are called eelpout, mariah, lawyer fish, and ling cod. There probably are other local and regional names as well.
I released the burbot back into the cold, clear water and Aerobus, and later did a bit of research on the creature from the deep.
The following year, I decided I would try to catch more burbot. I decided I would try worms fished deep. No luck. Not another one was caught.
Then recently, my friend Jim Zumbo, outdoor journalist for the Outdoor Channel, who lives near Cody, Wyo., posted a picture on facebook of several tubs of bubot. They were taken through the ice at a special tournament on Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Wyoming-Utah line.
The burbot at Flaming are an invasive species. They were illegally introduced to the lake and apparently are causing considerable damage to the salmon and smallmouth bass populations.
Recent discoveries of burbot in the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir have concerned wildlife biologists who fear that the burbot could decimate the sport fish population in what is recognized as one of the world's top Brown Trout fisheries, because it often feeds on the eggs of other fish in the lake like Sockeye salmon.
The Utah Division of Fish and Game has instituted a "No Release" "Catch and Kill" regulation for the burbot in Utah waterways. The recent boubot tourney on Flaming Gorge was a means of hopefully reducing some of the numbers of the fish. Most of the tourney fish were caught at night through the ice.
According to Wikipedia, The name burbot comes from the Latin word barba, meaning beard, referring to the single catfish-type chin whisker or barbel.
Looking like a cross between the catfish and the eel, the burbot has a serpentine-like body, but is easily distinguished by the single barbel on the chin.. The body is elongated and laterally compressed with a flattened head and single tube-like projection for each nostril. The mouth is wide, with both upper and lower jaws consisting of many small teeth. The burbot is commonly confused with its close, ocean dwelling cousin, the lingcod.
Burbot live in large, cold rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Primarily preferring freshwater habitats, but able to thrive in brackish environments for spawning. During summer months, they are typically found in the colder water below the thermocline. Burbot usually aren’t found below the 40th parallel.
The average burbot is about 16 inches long, but the adults range a foot to nearly four feet, and weight ranges from a couple pounds to 25 pounds. The record is held by a Canadian who caught a 25-pound, two-ounce fish in Batcchawana Bay in Lake Superior. The Indiana record was set in 1990 with a seven-pound, 11-ounce fish taken in Lake Michigan by Larry Malicki.
Burbot are tenacious eaters, which will sometimes attack other fish that are almost the same size and as such can be a nuisance fish in waters where it is not native.
Burbot reportedly are good eating and called by some the “poor man's lobster”. People take the backstrap, boil it and dip it in butter like lobster.