Species of the Week: Burbot!

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Corey's picture
Species of the Week: Burbot!
<div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item even"> <h3> Welcome to the second installment of Species of the Week!</h3> <p>This (weekly or biweekly) system allows the community to add more comprehensive information to the species pages.&nbsp; Everyone should post their best information, tactics, and descriptive information for the species.&nbsp; Pictures of average-sized, juvenile, and jumbo specimens are all required.&nbsp; Each species should have at least one habitat photo (This means getting creative)!&nbsp;</p> <h3> This week&#39;s species is the Burbot, <em>Lota lota</em></h3> <p><em>Click <a href="http://www.roughfish.com/~roughfis/species/1"><strong>HERE</strong></a> for the current Burbot page.</em></p> <p><img alt="" src="http://www.roughfish.com/~roughfis/sites/default/files/burbot1.jpg" style="width: 560px; height: 255px;" /></p> <p>Please share your experiences with this species below!</p> With Pout-O-Rama breathing down our necks, let&#39;s all go burbot crazy this week and flesh out the ling file!&nbsp;</div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p>
TonyS's picture
Ya!  Burbot!

Ya!  Burbot!


One of my favorites!  I'll try and lump info as usable as I can.  I'm not home right now but I'll throw down some of the pics I have too. 


Cold water periods are best but if you can find cold water Burbot can be caught any time of the year.  Most of the time Burbot are a strict low light predator.  There are exceptions.  The first one is under the ice.  I suspect the decreased visiblity under the ice makes them more consistantly active.  The tendancity towards daytime feeding intensifies towards the spawn, probably due to them spawning during the night.  Spawning ranges from early January to March depending upon the waterbody.  Some populations spawn on lake reefs while others run up rivers to spawn.  The second instance for good daytime Burbot fishing is dark water, chocolate milk colored water produces good daytime fishing.  Also watch out for spawning runs of coldwater baitfish like Ciscoes and Smelt.  If those species are spawning the Burbot will not be far away.  The best Burbot fishing I've found so far has overlapped the tail end of the hard to follow smelt spawn.


First the location must be cold.  This is important.  It might not be hard for those fishing Lake Superior or in the far North to find truely cold water but others may have to work to find it.  Avoid water warmer than 55*F, if all the water is below 45* F then I'd start looking for the "warmer" water, if only because the food will be there.  Bottom content doesn't seem to really matter, I've caught them on sand, gravel, mud, and boulders.  They will hold tight to bottom most of the time though, the only exception being during the spawning season.  This is one species that does love structure though. I've found them to relate closely to natural and man made structure.  To the degree of having fish tangle me boulders instantly on the take.  In Lake Laberge Burbot have been observed burrowing the mud lake bed and in Lake Superior divers state seeing Burbot frequently hiding amongst shipwrecks at all depths.  They will hold in surprisingly fast water in rivers and in lake driven currents.  Sometimes prefering the swift current, other times prefering the eddies and slack water. 


Deadbaits will take Burbot all year, although they really shine outside the spawning season.  Smelt fall apart easily so I use a "half hitch rig" (I'll add a picture when I get home) to keep on the hook.  Circle hooks and tightlining braid dramatically decreases the rate of guthooking.  Using standard hooks or even circle hooks on mono seems to result in a pretty high instance of guthooking.  Also be aware that the bite of Burbot on dead bait can be light enough to make a walleye angler blush.  Either resulting in a guthooked fish or a stripped hook without even seeing a bump.  Similar set ups with whatever baitfish (ideally coldwater baitfish) are found in your waters should bring good results. 


When Burbot are active lures, either tipped with bait or "clean," will produce fish as well.  Jigging spoons and Jigs in glow colors are classic ice presentation and Burbot definately respond to glow colors well!  Jigging lures, like Jigging Raps, work as well but complicate things as the Burbot comes to the hole, having more hooks to catch the ice.  Blade Baits are probably the best option for the bait-less angler.  The vibrations seem to work nicely on Burbot and some come in glow colors which is even better. 


AND some random Burbot Pics, they always show such a range of colors and patterns...

Wvmtnman's picture
This fishi is one of my Dream

This fishi is one of my Dream NA freshwater fish to catch! But alas I would have to travel a nice ways away to catch one.... Unless! I seen that the map shows that they occur in the Ohio between Ohio and Kentukey. Now heres the question do they occur in the Ohio between WV and oh? If not is there a reason why?

TonyS's picture
Add to that

Crawlers catch burbot too, though many hours of fishing lines split between crawlers and baitfish has shown me that baitfish nearly always work better.

TonyS's picture
In regards to the Ohio River
Different sites suggest different things about the Ohio River Burbot, they are either introduced or strays from the Mississippi system. regardless I suspect they might have some spawning issues in those parts. Likely they wouldn't be worth serious targeting anywhere in the Ohio River. Best bet would be to find the chance to fish one of the Great Lakes or somewhere else far north. They are present in the Mississippi around here and I've fished that my whole life and never seen one. Best to hit at least half way decent waterways to really stand a good chance to catch one without spending your whole life to do it!
Muskymags's picture
Burbot are very neat fish

Burbot are very neat fish usually only ever caught during the cold water months.  They can be enticed with slender spoons tipped with cut fish or minnow heads as well as on deadbait placed near the bottom.  They feed most actively at night, but also come out to play during overcast low pressure days as well.  Usually caught near the bottom they are also caught suspended at times during great migrations and mating.  The Burbot sports a spikelike single barbel on their chin, unlike other species which helps them locate and sense food near the bottom.

Burbot have been observed moving along the bottom of a waterbody clustered together in a ball of slithering, squirming Pout spewing out sperm and eggs as the mass reproduces.  Burbot can get very large and are a worthy adversary no matter what the size.




Wvmtnman's picture
Anyone have some favorite

Anyone have some favorite recipes?

Cast_and_Blast's picture
Here's a few pics of mine.

Here's a few pics of mine.



Mike B
Mike B's picture
I think one of the coolest

I think one of the coolest things about burbot are their huge nads.

2012 didn't provide a great year of burbot fishing for me. Water levels were very high at my usual spots unlike in 2010 and 2011 when I caught large numbers of them and good-sized ones too. There are two basic periods when I fish for them, spring and winter. The bite slows down up here in the NWT after January but gets vigorous again at last ice.

It's cold fishing for burbot in January.

In late May I head to the Deh Cho region to fish the mighty Liard River. Longtime Roughfishers have seen most of following pics. Some of the most exciting fishing I've ever had. My personal best fish was 17 lbs and 41 inches landed last year. I've caught several others over 10 pounds the last few years. Fishing the Liard for burbot is bait fishing in this chocolate brown water. My usual setup is a three-way swivel rig still fished from shore with a cisco threaded through the lips on a large Gamakatsu hook and as large a weight as I can comfortably cast from shore. Burbot are extremely adept at finding the bait. I've chummed the water by tossing cut pieces of cisco into the river from shore and found ever single piece in the burbot I've caught after cleaning them later. As far as subarctic fish go, they are the best eating around in my opinion.

Reeling one in on the Liard.

I've been told burbot are top predators and I believe it. I've found all kinds of fish in their stomaches, even a squirrel. They're not opposed to cannibalism either.

mike b

Moose439's picture
Great info so far dudes! Tony

Great info so far dudes! Tony, just so you know I think you catching open water burbots in MN is one of the coolest things ive seen since I joined this site. Mike those fish in the pics with you arent real, in fact Im not sure I believe that your a real person. hahaha

Im not an expert on fishing burbot but I love them. Not only their stunningly beautiful patterns and thier scrapy nature but also their mild flavored delicious flesh. Basically this is a fish that fights like a channel cat from a bad neighborhood and tastes like a lobster. What more could anyone want?

They seem to like they same type of structure that walleye and saugers use during the day. If a piece of structure is holding walleye during the day it is most likely holding Burbot after dark. Another trick is looking for piles of frozen burbot layed on top the ice by degenerate A-holes.

For tackle I like to get 3\4 oz jig heads with soft plastic bodies and marabu style tails. Preferably glow in the dark. Then I take a pliers and pull the rattle off a buck shot spoon and shove it into the body of the soft plastic. This is tipped with a minnow or chunk of cut bait.

Like i said Im no expert but thats my two cents


Jason E.
Jason E.'s picture
I caught my very first pout

I caught my very first pout at a roughfish pout gathering a few years ago.  Andy showed me how to jig for them and it was a thrill to pull such a big, solid fighting fish up through the ice after weeks of catching perch and sunnies.  I just used chunks of dead creek chubs and they have worked great.

I know that most folks who visit this site will know this already, but some might not.  There is an excellent video on this webpage:


It shows you exactly how to clean a burbot.  I probably wouldn't be too inclined to eat the belly fillet from a large fish, esp. one caught out of polluted waters.  Nonetheless, it shows just how much meat a decent burbot can provide.


MJohnson's picture
Nice video wormhunter.  Here

Nice video wormhunter.  Here is a link to the recipe book he showed at the end:


Gunnar's picture
I've been daydreaming a lot

I've been daydreaming a lot about fish chowders and stews lately. Cold weather will do that to a guy, I guess.


Flipping through a magazine a few weeks ago I spotted this one (from the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Saveur magazine) and my first thought was that it would be great with burbot (not that I've ever eaten burbot).:


(Norwegian cod and root vegetable chowder)

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small leek, sliced 1/4" thick
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped
  • 4 medium new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
  • 3 cups fish stock
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1.5 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 lb. boneless, skinless cod fillet, cut into 2" pieces
  • 1/3 cup dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup parlsey leaves, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Crusty bread for serving

Heat butter in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, clery, onions, peppers, and leeks, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add carrots, parsnips, cleriac, potatoes, stock, milk, cream and Worcestershire; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Add cod, and continue to cook, stirring gently, until fish is cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Stir in dill, parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Serve with bread.
(Copied word-for-word from the magazine.)


Other recipes I found while looking on the Saveur site for the fiskesuppe and thinking about cooking with burbot (which I have no chance of doing any time soon), cod or some other fish (which I could do with a visit to the store, though that's a lot less fun):

Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew) http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Brazil-Fish-Stew

This hearty stew can be made with any firm-fleshed white fish, such as catfish or halibut. This recipe first appeared in our June/July 2012 issue along with Neide Rigo's story Passage to the Amazon. 


Lobster and Corn Chowder http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Lobster-and-Corn-Chowder

Fresh sweet summer corn and lobster are on display in this creamy New England chowder, subtly spiced with cayenne and black pepper. Restaurateur Cary Wheaton was inspired to create this chowder for her friends and neighbors one summer while vacationing at the seaside Massachusetts town of Westport.


Then I got out my go-to book for fish cooking [A. J. McClane's Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery (Holt: 1977)]. No entry for burbot, eelpout, lawyer or ling. I thought I'd finally looked up something the author had missed, but I found burbot within the Cod entry (p. 81)  :



The only freshwater member of the cod family found in North America, Europe and Asia. The burbot (Lota lota), sometimes called ling or lawyer in the U.S., is not a very attractive-looking fish, being somewhat eel-shaped and often pot-bellied, with its scales embedded in a heavy skin, but it's a truly unique food. Burbot are found from New England to the Susquehanna River, throughout the Great Lakes and the Hudson Bay drainage system, and in the columbia River. A large subspecies is found in Alaska and Siberia which attains a length of 5 feet and weights of over 60 pounds. It occurs mainly in lakes, usually in very deep water, but during its winter spawning period the burbot is found in the shallows. The flesh is white and firm, but slightly oilier than that of the saltwater cods. Due to the absence of small bones the fillets are easy to prepare in all cod recipes. Both the vitamin-rich liver and roe are extremely good eating. A popular general recipe in Scandinavia is to stuff rolled fillets with the liver and poach in white wine; the fumet is then strained and made into an aspic; the rolls are served cold with horseradish sauce. Also known as Lotte (France), Donzela (Portugal), Lake (Norway and Sweden), Ferskvandskvabbe (Denmark), Rutte (Germany), Manic (Yugoslavia), Bottatrice (Italy), Nalim (USSR).


EDIT: Hengelaar informs me that the Dutch name for burbot is kwabaal, which literally means "lobe-eel." <Now, back to the encyclopedia.>


Cape Cod Fish Chowder (p. 85):

  • 2 pounds cod or tautog fillets, cut into chunks
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups fish stock or clam juice
  • salt
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 pound salt pork, cubed
  • 2 medium-sized onions, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups milk or half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (optional)

Place fish in a kettle; add water, stock and 1 teaspoon salt. cook the fish over low heat just to the point where it can be flaked with a fork but remains firm. With a slotted spoon or spatula remove fish and reserve liquid to cook the diced potatoes. While potatoes simmer, brown salt-pork cubes in a skillet, then add onions and cook over low heat until onions are transparent. Add onions and cracklings to the liquid. Test potatoes; if done, return fish to liquid and add the milk and butter. Increase heat to bring liquid just to the boiling point, then turn off heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and dill. Makes 6 servings.


Other recipes on the next few pages include:

Portuguese Fish Chowder

(Very much like the Cape Cod version, but with 2 lbs cod, 4 cups water, 4 cups fish stock, 1/2 tsp saffron, 2 tbsp vinegar, salt, 4 potatoes, 1/4 lb salt pork, 2 onions, 2 garlic cloves mashed.)


Bonavista Bay Cods' Tongues

In schooner days each fisherman was required to keep count of the number of cod caught and the simplest tally was to remove the tongue. The tongues were then salted in barrels and sold with the rest of the fish. Their distinctive flavor is relished by seafaring people.")

It also notes that  cod cheeks can be cooked the same way as tongues.


Sauteed Cod Roe

  • 1 large cod roe, or 2 small roes
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 4 slices of bacon, cut into small crosswise strips
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

If the roe is a large winter roe (before spawning), gently simmer it in boiling salted water for about 5 minutes to firm and partially cook, or the roe will burn on the outside without heating the interior. Small summer roes do not require simmering.

Roll roe in flour and brown in peanut oil. Add bacon pieces and cook  until transparent. Add melted butter and continue browning until roe is crisp skinned. Arrange on a platter and pour liquid  from pan over it. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 2 servings.


Merluza Koskera (Hake Basque fashion)

  • 8 skinless fillets of hake
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • flour
  • 12 shelled cooked shrimps
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup shelled green peas, blanched
  • 8 asparagus tips, cooked
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, sliced

Saute garlic in oil, stirring constantly so garlic does not burn. Meanwhile sprinkle hake fillets with salt and coat with flour. Saute hake in garlic-flavored oil for 4 minutes, then carefully turn over  without breaking the fish. After this do not touch the fish but move the pan to and fro to mix the oil and flour. When the mixture thickens add a few drops of water. when hake is done, add the shrimps and sprinkle generously  with parsley  and green peas. Remove from heat, garnish with asparagus tips and egg slices, and serve in the pan. Makes 4 servings.

The most important detail in every one of the recipes above is that you MUST deliver it to my dining room table and/or prepare it in my kitchen.



Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2020: 10 days fishing 11 species 0 lifers. 2019: 34/45/13 2018: 39/40/5

Jknuth's picture
I dont have much to add other

I dont have much to add other then an Illustration. 

Openwater pouting has been covered very well here already. 
I agree have had the same experiances as others in that department. 

Late fall just before Ice up, after dark with cutbait near a river mouth. I have caught them on small twister tail jigs at this time. keep the jig moving but keep the retrieve slow.  Although i would stick to cutbait.
Another interesting thing is the smaller burbot (up to 14" or so) caught in trout streams and small headwaters to larger bodies of water that hold burbot. I have caught them in the middle of summer in a few inches of water drifting crawlers for trout.

TonyS's picture
That illustration is awesome!

That illustration is awesome!  I need one of those!


Agreed that river mouth can be prime for fall pouting, with it just getting better as things get colder.  Main lake reefs would be the same too.  I know each week into the fall gets better and better on Superior.  Things get tough in November though, I think the Burbot are still holding in the same spots but I've really struggled to fish through "the gales of November" - you haven't seen a 4oz pyramid bounce until you've seen it bounce around in 6' or better waves.  Calmer conditions are helpful for bite detection.  Not to mention 40mph winds off Superior in November can freeze your reel up tight (done that a couple times)

TonyS's picture
Glad to see somebody else has

Glad to see somebody else has caught them on straight artificals too - they remind of Channel Cats in that way.  Cut bait is king but artificals will work if you get them in front of an actively feeding fish.

TonyS's picture
Interestingly - those small

Interestingly - those small Burot in small streams may be adults as well.  Several sources I've seen in the past cited sampling Burbot in small streams sexually mature at sizes as small as 6"-7" long. 

(One such paper)



On the flip side, male Burbot in Alaska mature closer to 18" long.


I'd love to read about the population structure in Lake Superior, anybody know how get ahold of a copy of:

Age, growth, reproduction, and food of the burbot, Lota lota (Linnaeus), in southwestern Lake Superior -  1972, Bailey, Merryll M. - Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 101: 667 - 674

Gunnar's picture
Tony--check your messages.

Tony--check your messages.


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2020: 10 days fishing 11 species 0 lifers. 2019: 34/45/13 2018: 39/40/5

Mike B
Mike B's picture
Caught this one today -- a

Caught this one today -- a fair representative of the inland form found in oligotrophic lakes north of Great Slave Lake. Just a big ripe banana.

Caught it on a whole frozen cisco on the bottom in 60 feet of water adjacent to deeper water.

mike b

Muskymags's picture
Small creeks!


burbot Lota lota 64 2000-07-06 T Little Pine River M-106-001 Upper Mississippi River Crow Wing 137 26W 28 425060,5167460 MPCA Electroshocker Emily

This is a snippet from electroshocking a small stream near me that maxes out at 6 FOW and they got 64 Burb's outta one area.  I've been told they're all small ones and have checked the spot and it seems realitively lifeless except for a spring Sucker run.  Another interesting thing is the 64 Burb's were shocked up in this warm shallow creek on July 6th 2000; very very odd in my book.

Gunnar's picture
"Electroshocker Emily" should

"Electroshocker Emily" should be a character in a sci-fi story or a blues song...


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2020: 10 days fishing 11 species 0 lifers. 2019: 34/45/13 2018: 39/40/5

TonyS's picture
Lots 'O' Burbs in rivers in

Lots 'O' Burbs in rivers in WI and MN, including warm ones.  Betting they aren't too active in summer warm period though.  Bet you could catch some fishing near structure at night spring/fall.  WI/MN Burb mapping - all kinds of dots!


TonyS's picture

Top is my favorite open water rig - the half hitch rig.  Dacron is the ideal leader line but braid works well too.  A single half hitch helps a ton but with a whole baitfish I usually use 3-4 half hitches working from head to tail.  That really holds the smelt when the rips are trying to rob you blind.


The bottom one is my favorite ice set line rig.  Glow spoon with a smelt chunk on circle hook dropper.  Jig it occasionally, otherwise let it sit and flip around in the mid water column currents.  Hasn't been a high percentage rig but it has taken a fair number of burbot and has saved the day for me a least a couple times.

Corey's picture
First Pout-O-Rama

Not sure if some of you haven't seen this.  Andy and I on our first trip to Gooseneck Bend. 


We didn't know.  New Pouters might want to check this out.

Phil's picture
I would say they should -that

I would say they should -that is a classic reel, and really a portal into another dimension.  Wow - I remember the first time someone showed me that clip, it turned my thinking around and actually was instrumental in launching my renaissance into roughfishing.  Clearly here is evidence that there is untold adventure yet to be had by expanding the bounds of understanding and occasionally pushing back on the restraints of common sense.  “Pout on", squeaking drag, the boom of doom- Hold on to your bucket!  On a magical night can it get any better than that?

Corey's picture
Finished updating the burbot

Finished updating the burbot page!

Click here to view it!

Please let us know if anything needs to be fixed or expanded on!

TonyS's picture
Awesome!  So cool to see the

Awesome!  So cool to see the species pages getting updated, great work putting everything together Corey!


Mizay - I always like seeing the "proper" names out there for fish.  That isn't one I had seen before, I like it though.

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
Thats bad ass dude.  Great

Thats bad ass dude.  Great job!