Ice Fishing for Burbot, a Misunderstood Game Fish

Ice Fishing for Burbot

Ice fishing for burbot is overlooked by many anglers. They are an under utilized game fish. Who would not want to catch a fish that grows large, fights hard, and tastes fantastic on a dinner plate? Part of the problem is that there is not a ton of information on these fish, their habits, and spawning cycles. However, in this article, these subjects will be covered. Hopefully, anglers will understand burbot better after reading this.

Burbot are typically a slow swimming fish that mostly feeds on or near the bottom. They use their uniquely camouflaged bodies to ambush prey. Burbot mostly feed on bait fish. However, insects, crustaceans, and other forage are part of their diet as well. Burbot are found in large, deep, cold bodies of water.

Anglers who would like to read more about ice fishing can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “A Complete Guide to Ice Fishing” by clicking on the title link.

Burbot have a highly developed sense of touch and smell. This gives them an advantage when hunting in the dark. Therefore, most serious burbot anglers pursue them at night. No need for an early rise for these fish!

Burbot ice fishing tackle

Burbot do grow fairly large. Most anglers ice fishing for burbot simply use their walleye and lake trout tackle. 36” to 42” rods with a medium or medium heavy action work well. Burbot are often found in shallow water in the evening and at night. Anglers can use either 20 lb braided line or 10 lb flourocarbon line. In either case, anglers should choose lines designed for ice fishing. Anglers using braid will require a 48” piece of 10-15 lb flourocarbon leader.

ice fishing for burbot

Most anglers ice fishing for burbot use a combination of an artificial lure and cut bait. Heavy jigs and jigging spoons sweetened with a strip of cut cisco or other baitfish or frozen shiners is the preferred bait. Anglers can also use scented soft plastic baits such as the Gulp line. Also, anglers can use scents such as Pro Cure on soft plastic tubes and other baits.

Anglers can read more about ice fishing tackle and gear in this linked article.

There are many spoons and jigs that will produce for anglers ice fishing for burbot. These include, but certainly are not limited to the ReelBait Tournament Series LS Flasher Jig, the Trout-N-Pout Spoon, and Frostbite Dinnerbell Spoon.

Burbot habits and behavior

As in all fishing, understanding fish habits will help anglers ice fishing for burbot. One great aspect of burbot is that they provide an excellent opportunity mid winter when some other species gets tough. Burbot spawn in the winter. They spawn from January through March, depending on location. The fishing “window” is generally 4-6 weeks long.

ice fishing for burbot

Interestingly, not every burbot spawns every year. Some take a year off. However, they ones that don’t still move up with the other fish and help protect the eggs. This is a very unusual behavior in the fish world.

Burbot will be found in deeper waters during the daylight hours. As the day wanes, fish will move up from 40 feet to 60 feet of water and onto flats in 10 feet to 20 feet of water. This means that flats and points adjacent to deeper areas, especially main lake basins, are often the best spots to fish.

Burbot locations

Humps, points, and flats near the main lake channel and deepest portions of the lake are prime spots to target burbot at sunset and into the night. Rocks, gravel, and weedy bottoms will increase the chance for success. Burbot fishing is tough during the day. However, persistent anglers ice fishing for burbot will find them in the deeper holes.

ice fishing with live bait

Anglers should drill a dozen or so holes in varying depths. A good approach is to start at the drop off into the main lake channel or basin. That will be a prime spot! Next, more holes are scattered about on the flat, from 20 feet deep down as shallow as 8 feet deep. Anglers can follow the migration as they move up on the flat as the evening progresses. The north side of the lake, which faces south, can often be better.

Techniques used when ice fishing for burbot

The one technique that produces for anglers ice fishing for burbot is to bounce a jig or spoon on the bottom several times, then lifting up up a foot or so and subtly jigging it. The bottom disturbance attracts the fish, then they can’t help but attack the offering that is just dangling in front of their face. This is where the weight of the lure comes into play. The pause is very important as it simulates a wounded bait fish which is easy prey for the burbot.

ice fishing for turbot

A sonar unit is not required for anglers ice fishing for burbot. However, they certainly help. Even if no fish show, anglers should give the “bottom bumping” technique a try. If fish are on the screen but won’t bite, anglers should vary the retrieve to see if they can elicit a strike. The routine should be repeated several times before moving on to another hole.

Jigs and spoons are almost always tipped with a strip of cisco or a bunch of flathead minnows or shiners. Burbot grow large and want a substantial meal. Anglers should be generous with their strip or gob of minnows. As mentioned earlier, a Gulp bait or soft plastic trailer loaded with Pro Cure will work as well.

In conclusion, this article will hopefully encourage anglers to give ice fishing for burbot a try! They are great fun and terrific eating! The flesh is similar to lobster. However, anglers should be responsible and just keep a couple for dinner. As with most species, it is best to keep the average sized fish and release the big girls to make babies.

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