The Dark Side of Superior

This is a flip side of the tale - the fish rule the night on the big lake.  Fish that would munch down lake run Suckers, Redhorse, and Whitefish without hesitation...


TylerW had contacted me back in March about taking Thomas out Burbot fishing.  As a little backstory Thomas is from Denmark doing research in Minnesota and staying with Tyler.  Thomas has covered many, many miles - logged many, many hours - looking for the Burbot.  A fish so rare in Denmark that he refers to them as Unicorns.  When he found that there were places in the midwest were it is possible to catch multiple Burbot in a single night he was interested for sure...


Tyler was asking about ice fishing.  Unfortunately, the river ice was already rapidly rotting.  A violent storm had heaved the ice that could be effected by lake currents the previous weekend. The next week the first ship of the season would go through and destroy what remainded of the walkable ice.  We played email tag for a full month canceling based on heavy iceberg drifts, single digit air temperatures, and schedule conflicts. 


Finally we had a weekend day picked!  And then the constant North-East winds accelerated to ripping speeds and pounding waves.  While the waves were impressive I had to tell them not to bother coming up.  Finally the trip ran into the Longnose run with Andy and Mitch so we doubled it up. The East winds were still a bit rough but nothing unfishable. 


The plan bottom rig frozen smelt and catch Burbot.  Hopefully the lake currents would be kind as they can make or break a big lake poutin' trip.  We rigged heavy because the occasional Sturg that wanders in tend to be on the large side. 


After fishing for Longnose in the afternoon Mitch, Avid, and I headed out a little before dark for Burbot.  Thomas and Tyler were not scheduled to show up for a couple hours.  We were into fish quick with a couple doubles in the first couple hours.



By the time Tyler and Thomas has arrived the current had changed and bite slowed.  I've learned that visibility and current are key in this kind of fishing.  Too much light pentraition and bite dies.  Too much current, too little current, current in one direction or another - all can impact where the Burbot will be and how active.  A current switch during a hot bite is not a good thing. 


After a few hours Thomas got his lifer Burbot!  Then he dropped the bomb.  He wanted to stay out on the shore of Lake Superior all night and catch Burbot.  In 25 mph winds.  In mid-30* F air temps.  Did I mention it was on the shore of Lake Superior?  The lake that never gives up her dead?


It is hard to make a group of roughfishers think you are crazy - at least from the stand point of dedicated fishing.  But we all thought it a little crazy that he was going to stay out there alone.  I tried to leave my wood stove, he didn't want any distractions from fishing.  


By night's end, when we met up again with Thomas, he was tired but happy - having caught dozen-and-half Burbot, including two big Burbot (over 30").  A couple Lake Superior fattened Channel Cats and hooked into a "freight train" - likely one of the big Lake Sturgeon that cruises the bottom of Lake Superior. 



Species List: 
Catfish, Channel


Reekfish's picture

Those are some lovely lawyers!!! And Thomas is such a badass! Good for him!


Must. Lifelist. Eelpout. This. Winter.!!!

Beautiful burbot! I'd love to catch one again some day and take some good pictures smiley


Congrats on the lifer burbot Thomas! Well deserved!

shorefisherman's picture

Wow those are some big ling!

TonyS's picture

Correction - Avid reminded me that the correct wind speed on the actual lake shore that night was 25mph (though it did drop over night).  Not sure what the lake wind speed was the weekend we punted but if Saturday was sustained 25mph then I would guess the really windy day was sustained 40mph+

I also tried to leave a sleeping pad for Thomas. His response: "I am not going to sleep."
When I picked Thomas up at 7:15am he was smiling from ear to ear.
Crazy like a fox.

WiscoCheezHead's picture

Congrats! That's awesome. Any insights into how you were fishing them by chance? Or is that a faux pas :)

Life is good. Especially when you're fishing.

TonyS's picture

Any insights into how you were fishing them by chance?

Dead smelt (just a half of one to save on bait).  Standard bottom rig with 3oz sinker and a larger circle hook (we used anywhere from 1/0-5/0). 


I had some gut hooking issues but I think I have that figured out.  At first I thought it was the shape of the hook I was using but Mitch had the same exact hook without problems.  I've been running a heavy mono shock leader (20' of 40lb) to deal with abrasion and the current, wind, and waves were putting a lot slack in the line.  I think with the slack the hook was headed out via the south bound end of fish by the time I hit it.  Everybody else was using braid straight to the swivel - with the tighter line the fish were likely hooked on the take. 


In the future I'm going to ditch the shock leader and deal with the fact that I'll wear out my braided line faster.  Oh well.

TonyS's picture

A half hitch or three helps a lot too - see below for a video of it, this guy puts more effort in than I do but he's fishing White Sturgeon in ripping current:


Leader material for half-hitch rigging is important.  Avoid mono or flouro at all costs!  Heavy dacron or lighter trotline are ideal, braided spectra works well as long as the current isn't too bad and you don't whip too hard on the cast.

Deftik's picture

Nice burbots!

Your momma fishes for lifers with Eagle Claws.
Jason E.'s picture

Nice fish.  That's some hardcore adventure there.  Kudos.

RiverRat's picture

That man is truly nuts. He is however quite dedicated. Thanks for the cool story man.

WiscoCheezHead's picture

Thanks Tony, I appreciate it. I'll be sure to give it a shot this summer.


Life is good. Especially when you're fishing.

Fins's picture

I will never sleep while I am with in casting distance of Superior again!

O Lord it's a big one. If you let me get em' in I promise I let em' go.

TonyS's picture

let me know next time you are in the area!  we can try and catch big lake fish!

Eric Kol's picture

Thomas sounds like the kind of angler that fits right in here, nuts and badassed. Every pout report I've read from you Tony adds that much more depth to my understanding of the species in this area. I have yet to tackle these big lake pout in open water, but know who to call 'fore I do.



Carpy Diem!

TonyS's picture

by all means do!  lots of pout-worthy water on the Big Lake and always good to have company out there. 

thats some real ROUGH fishing