New Ice Fishing Adventure
Burbot: Fun to catch, great to eat
Dutch John -- If you'd like to add another notch to your "fish species caught" list, head to Flaming Gorge Reservoir this winter.
Burbot were illegally introduced into the Green River drainage in Wyoming. These fish have made their way into the Gorge.
Burbot compete with other fish, so it's unfortunate that they're in the reservoir, but they also provide great ice fishing. Burbot look somewhat like a cod, and they get active under the ice during the winter.
Right now is the best time of the year to catch them.
Where to Fish
Most of the burbot in Flaming Gorge are in the upper end of the reservoir, in both the Blacks Fork and Green River arms. If you have a Utah fishing license and a $10 reciprocal stamp (the stamp is good for all of 2007), you can fish the Wyoming end of the reservoir, in addition to the Utah side.
The best areas to start fishing are near the Firehole boat ramp, the Lost Dog area, any rocky points in the Blacks Fork River arm, and points in the Confluence area.
Burbot feed in low light conditions, so fishing from sundown until a few hours after dark is the most productive time to target them. Try fishing between 20 and 25 feet deep over rocks and near deeper water. Crayfish seem to be the burbots' main feed this time of year, so fish over the rocks.
If you have a portable fish house, bring it, since nighttime temperatures tend to drop quite a bit on the ice. If you don't have a fish house, bring a portable heater, which will help keep you warm. And don't forget to bring a headlamp or a lantern, so you can see what you're doing.
If you can only fish during the day, try fishing deeper (50 to 60 feet down) in the old river channel. A depth finder will help you locate areas to fish, but since burbot tend to hug the bottom, you probably won't see them on your graph.
When choosing lures, look for spoons and jigs that have some type of glow on them. A glowing lure seems to attract burbot so they'll get close enough to smell the sucker meat or shiner meat that you should tip your lure with.
The jigging spoon or jig should be big enough to get to the bottom fairly quickly, but not so big that the fish can't get their mouths over it. Try 2- or 3-inch tube jigs, or jigging spoons that are one to two inches long.
Fish within a few inches of the bottom, and watch your rod tip carefully as most of the bites are pretty light. Charge up the glow on your lure, with a flashlight or a headlamp, every five to 10 minutes.
If you catch a burbot, don't be afraid of its appearance. Burbot have teeth that are similar to a catfish or bass, so they won't bite, but they're quite slimy, so you may want to handle them with waterproof gloves.
How to Cook 'Em
Burbot have white, flaky flesh, and they're great to eat.
One way to cook them is to bread and fry them. You can also boil them lightly for four minutes, and then dip them in butter, which gives them a taste that's similar to lobster.
It's fairly easy to clean burbot. Just cut the skin behind the head and peel it off with pliers. Then fillet the meat off around the rib cage and down the tail, and you'll be left with boneless fillets.
You'll Be Helping the Fishery
The burbot limit at Flaming Gorge is 25 burbot. Biologists want to reduce the population of these illegally introduced fish, so you must keep all the burbot you catch, up to your 25 fish limit.
If you're looking for a different type of ice fishing adventure this winter, head to Flaming Gorge. In addition to harvesting a bunch of tasty burbot, you'll be helping the fishery.
For more information, call the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' Flaming Gorge Field Office at (435) 885-3164.