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Fresh-water cod has tasty flesh
The burbot got its name from the French word "bourbeter," which means "to wallow in mud." And although the burbot, sporting a single chin barbel, is called an ugly fish, its mild white flesh is considered quite tasty.
The burbot is the only fresh-water cod in North America, living in cold waters north of 40 degrees latitude, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. It lives in clear and glacial rivers and lakes across Alaska. Burbot, which have brown or olive skin and a flat head, are known by a number of names, including ell pout, lawyer, lingcod, loache, lush, methy and mud shark.
Burbot can live for more than 20 years, but it takes six or seven years for the fish to reach 18 inches. The fish spawn under the ice in February and March and have been seen forming a large, writhing ball while spawning. Burbot commonly eat whitefish, sculpins, lampreys and other burbot, as well as mice and shrews.
The state record burbot was caught by George R. Howard in 1976. He pulled a burbot weighing 24 pounds 12 ounces from Lake Louise, near Glennallen in Southcentral Alaska.
Burbot are caught through the ice or in summer, using a 2/0 or 4/0 single hook baited with a chunk of fresh or frozen fish (smelt or whitefish) and a sinker 18 to 24 inches above the hook. The sinker should settle on the bottom.
The most popular fishing areas in Interior Alaska are large, glacial rivers such as the Yukon and Tanana. Some of the best fishing occurs near rocky bluffs, in back eddies and near the mouths of clear tributary streams. Burbot are also found in many lakes of Interior and Southcentral Alaska. Lake fishing may be restricted, however, because of falling burbot populations.
Sources of this information include the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.