Rare Daytime Video: Burbot Spawning and Feeding

In Canada and the northern United States, burbot spawn in February and March — under the ice! Most burbot are caught after dark by ice anglers, but it’s possible to find these deep-water fish during the day, too.

Rare Daytime Video: Burbot Spawning and Feeding

If you don’t live in the ice belt, or travel there during the winter ice fishing, you likely know very little about burbot, or eelpout. The fish looks like a cross between a catfish and an eel, and because it’s a relative to the saltwater cod, it’s considered a freshwater cod. It’s a tasty gamefish, but many ice anglers are turned off to the species because of its slimy skin and odd appearance. A burbot also has the unique ability to wrap its tail around your arm as you hold the fish behind the head.

Unlike most other northern gamefish that spawn during spring after the lakes are clear of ice, burbot move from the depths onto shallow areas containing sand and gravel during February and March, when these lakes are still covered in a thick layer of ice. Also unique is the spawning process. As you’ll see in the video below at the 7-minute mark, a female burbot will release her eggs and then several males will release sperm, then all the fish taking part in the act will thrash around on the bottom (photo above).

In the video, Jeremy Smith provides tips for finding and catching burbot. The underwater scenes captured by an Aqua-Vu camera are simply amazing. As you’ll see, even though the fish are present, that doesn’t mean they are always quick to bite.

Now is the time to target burbot in Canada and northern Minnesota, which is where this video was filmed, as well as many other states in the ice belt. If you’re successful, remember that burbot is delicious when handled and cooked properly. Click here for a quick lesson on how to fillet burbot.

You can cook a burbot’s white meat as you would a walleye or northern pike, but many anglers like to treat it as “poor man’s lobster.” Fast-forward to the 5:28-mark of this video for an excellent burbot cooking tutorial on how to make a Poor Man’s Lobster Roll (photo above).


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