Tips for Catching Burbot
Since their illegal introduction nearly two decades ago, Burbot have become a popular fishery on Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are encouraging anglers to harvest Burbot in an effort to reduce their abundance and the impact they are having on the sport fishery.
Numerous Burbot ice fishing tournaments have been held on Flaming Gorge Reservoir in recent years. Beyond the large numbers of fish removed at each of these derbies, it is striking how many participants struggle to catch Burbot. With a little preparation, you too can master the art of Burbot fishing. Remember, every Burbot removed from Flaming Gorge Reservoir represents a savings in sport fish, like Kokanee Salmon and Smallmouth Bass! Burbot are typically most active at night. During the day, they find dark recesses under rocks and in holes and cracks in the rocky habitats that line the reservoir. Around sunset, they emerge from hiding to feed. The first few hours following sunset and prior to sunrise can be very productive periods. Consider hitting the ice in the late afternoon to secure a good spot for the evening and do a little fishing for Lake Trout pups. Limits on Flaming Gorge Reservoir are liberal for Lake Trout less than 28 inches (pups). This will insure you are ready to go when the Burbot bite starts around sunset.
Some anglers also talk about a productive bite in the middle of the night. Good Burbot fishing is most commonly associated with rocky areas both on the main body and within larger bays of the reservoir or the habitats immediately adjacent to rocky habitats. The substrate may vary greatly, but rocky substrates are always good! Rocky substrate harbors crayfish; the primary prey for Burbot. The deep vertical habitat immediately in front of most cliffs tends to hold few Burbot. Instead, target the habitat adjacent to cliffs and rocky areas with a slope typically less than 60 degrees. The mouth of bays tucked within a large cliff complex can also be good, especially if there is shoal or gradual sloping, rocky bottom associated with it. Underwater cliffs with areas adjacent for Burbot to forage are often over looked, but can be very productive. Another good spot is a foraging area (rocky slope less than 60 degrees) adjacent to a cliff complex within a bay. Use a topographic map of Flaming Gorge Reservoir to identify promising areas to fish (for example: Fish-n-Map Company available from local stores or online at www.fishnmap.com or use an app like Navionics for boating). Good maps will help you select productive locations to fish and help you identify roads to access these areas. Once you have identified and selected your spot, it’s time to get set up. The folks that catch a lot of Burbot through the ice are augering 20-30 or more holes before wetting a line. By drilling holes early, you are not disturbing the fish during “prime time”. Burbot can be caught at any depth, but fishing near the bottom in 10 to 50 feet tends to be the most productive. If you are fishing with multiple lines, spread them across a range of depths to start. Remember, on Flaming Gorge you can fish up to 6 rods or tip-ups per angler through the ice, so take advantage of it! As the night progresses, consolidate lines near the depths that are producing the most fish. Lures should be fished within inches of the bottom and if you fish a hole for more than 15 minutes without a bite – try a different hole. Many successful angler groups are spreading out across the available habitat and do not fish close to other groups. It’s important to get away from the noise and commotion of other groups.
Lures that glow are a must for Burbot. Glow lures come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and can be purchased in local tackle stores or by searching the web for “glow lures” or “lures that glow”. Jigs with grub or tube bodies, or jigging spoons from 1⁄4-1⁄2 ounce weight with a wide hook gap (2/0-4/0) are recommended. Burbot are not lure or line shy so use a lure of sufficient weight to get you down to depth quickly. The glow for most lures dim in 15 to 20 minutes so it is critical to recharge the glow regularly. In recent years, anglers have been experimenting with glowing lures that rattle and vibrate when jigged, both of which can be very productive.
The glowing lure attracts the fish, while bait such as sucker or chub meat seals the deal. A small strip of meat (skin on) less than 1 inch by 1⁄2 inch is plenty to provide some scent and flavor to make them bite. Keep in mind that Burbot have hard mouths and get big. Stout sharp hooks and strong fishing line (8- 12lb test) are a must.
Burbot angling is an active sport. Anglers catching lots of Burbot are actively fishing and constantly moving from hole to hole. Jig a rod lightly, while watching your other stationary rods or tip-ups. Tip-ups can be very productive, but anglers should be jigging at least one rod for active fish while waiting for flags to go up. Remember to check tip-ups every 20 minutes or so. Burbot will frequently swallow a lure under a tip-up and not move or trigger the flag. Don’t be shy about hand jigging your tip-up lines when you check them too. A little movement will often provoke a strike and you should always be ready for an unexpected bite. Finally, recharge your lure every time you check your rod or tip-ups. The better the glow the more Burbot the lure will attract. Flash lights and head lamps work to recharge lures, but UV lights made for recharging glow lures work better.
As mentioned earlier, the most successful Burbot anglers start by drilling at least 20 or more holes. They typically don’t fish more than 10-15 minutes in a hole without a bite before moving to a new hole. Burbot sometimes move and forage in small schools. If you catch one from a hole there will likely be more Burbot close by. Get the first fish on the ice and your lure back down to the bottom as quick as possible. More times than not, you will ice more Burbot within minutes of the first.
Other things to include in your Burbot outing are a large trash bag or cooler to transport your catch home after you’ve caught a mess of fish. A couple of towels are also helpful, as Burbot can be a bit slimy and it’s nice to dry your hands after you handle one. A flashlight or headlamp is a must when night fishing. Extra flash lights can also be positioned to shine on rod tips or tip-ups to help identify strikes. And don’t forget to dress warm! Overnight temps on the Gorge can get below 0 degrees so dressing with your warmest layers is essential! Much of the information provided also applies to fishing for Burbot at night from a boat. Anglers catching large numbers of Burbot from boats have noted Burbot become more active when water temperatures are below 50 oF. Boat anglers can either vertically jig or cast lures toward shore. When you cast a jig, work your lure along the bottom with an erratic retrieve. The most important consideration for night fishing from a boat is having all the appropriate safety and navigation equipment to operate a boat safely. In addition to the required safety gear, boats should also be equipped with a spotlight and GPS. Someone should also know where you plan to fish and when you plan to return.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Burbot?
The burbot is a freshwater cod-like fish that has a serpentine-like body, and is like a cross between an eel and a catfish, but with only a single barbel on the chin. Many fisherman have claimed burbot wrap themselves around their arms as they try to disengage the hook. The burbot’s body is elongated, while the head is flattened, with a wide mouth consisting of many small teeth on both the upper and lower jaws. The burbot is often called a ling cod, but is actually only a close relative.
Besides having voracious appetites, burbot are nocturnal feeders, which is a cause for concern in the Flaming Gorge where most other fish are day time feeders. They love the eggs of other fish and have been known to feed on the spawning grounds of other species. Female burbot egg releases range from 60,000 to 3.4 million eggs for each batch.The known predators of the burbot: northern pike, muskellunge, and some lamprey species are not found in the Flaming Gorge, which is another reason why the Burbot Bash is needed to help keep their numbers under control.
How can I win prizes during the Burbot Bash?
There are several methods of winning prizes during the Burbot Bash. The main thing is you have to register to win.
BURBOT BASH – January 20-22, 2017
PRIZE CATEGORIES AND RULES
All cash and prizes WILL BE based on 300 participants. Prize payouts and places will be adjusted with increased participation.
Burbot size is determined by length with weight being a tie-breaker
Most Burbot ~ 3 places $ 1500, $1000, $750
Biggest Burbot ~ 3 places $1000, $750, $500
Biggest Burbot ~ 3 places $100, $75, $50
Smallest Burbot ~ 3 places $100, $75, $50
- Burbot Bounty: All tagged fish (including internal PIT tags and Floy tags) will be entered into the Burbot Bounty. This is a sponsorship category and all funds in this category will be split equally between all participants who catch a tagged fish. For example, if the Bounty has $1000.00 and 10 tagged Burbot are caught, the payout is $100.00 per tagged Burbot.
- Tagged Burbot: Teams that catch tagged Burbot will have a chance to win $10,000, $2,500 or $1,000 cash. Fifty Burbot will have tags with unique numbers. Wyoming Game & Fish (WGFD) and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) will send those numbers directly to the insurance agency. The insurance company will randomly select three of those tags and assign a dollar value to the tags. If an entrant catches one of the three insured tags they will be eligible for a cash prize. All recaptured Burbot with 2017 Burbot Bash PIT tags will be retained by a tournament official in a bag with team information until the awards ceremony on Sunday, January 22nd. At that time the representative from Tegeler Insurance will determine if the PIT tagged Burbot is one of the three pre-drawn PIT insured tags. Results for the insured tags will be revealed during the closing ceremony. Entrants who catch a tagged fish must be present or designate a team member to represent them to be eligible for the Tagged Burbot prize. Teams should also enter all Burbot, large or small, could be a winner.
Do fish caught during the tagged fish portion of the tournament count towards the Biggest, Most and Smallest prizes during the event?
If I want my youth to qualify for higher prize monies, what can I do?
It’s easy. Just enter them under the adult fee rate.
Can I have 4 youths on one team?
No. Each team must have an adult (18+) as its captain.
How many persons are needed to make a team?
At least 2 and up to 4 persons.
Do I have to pre-register?
No, but registering at the event will cost you another $20 per team. We encourage everyone to pre-register, as it allows us to purchase more prizes for the event. AND, if you are one of the first 150 teams to enter, you will qualify for a $500 Flaming Gorge getaway package drawing!