Ontarios deep, cold northern lakes are home to some of our most sought after quarry when Ice Fishing.  For most people, thinking of these lakes brings images of giant lake trout, and hordes of whitefish.  There are other species that are just as plentiful, actually more plentiful than these other well known fish species.

The burbot, ling, or fresh water cod, is one of these species.  In northern Ontario, this species is extremely abundant, yet highly under utilized.  This is surprising because the fish is one of the tastiest fresh water fish species available to anglers during the hard water season.  Also referred to as “Poor Mans Lobster”, there are a variety of ways that this tasty fish can be prepared.

Burbot (Lota lota) have a long smooth eel-like body and are distinguished by a barbell on their chin and a long second dorsal fin that is at least six times as long as the first. They taste a bit like cod, which makes sense as they are a member of the freshwater cod family. Adult Burbot typically range from 45-70 cm [1]. The Ontario record for Burbot is 99 cm (39 inches) long, and 18 lbs [2] from Lake Simcoe in 2017.

Burbot live throughout Ontario in lakes, reservoirs, and large rivers. Adult Burbot feed at the bottom targeting fish; but they also eat insects, frogs, snakes, and birds. They will eat just about anything really, making them not that fussy about what type of lure you use. Burbot are a great fish to target in the winter as they are still feeding at about half their maximum rate [3] making them quite active compared to other fish species. The best time to target Burbot is at twilight when they are feeding.

[1] Hensler,S., Jude, D., and He. J., (2007) Burbot growth and diets in Lakes Michigan and Huron: an ongoing shift from native species to round gobies. American Fisheries Society Symposium XX:000-000

[2] http://www.recordfishcanada.com/burbot10.html

[3] Pääkkönen, JP.J. & Marjomäki, T.J. (2000) Environmental Biology of Fishes 58: 109. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007611606545They also feed .

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