Burbot or Ling

Burbot or Ling.

Burbot or Ling:

Lora Lota (Linnaeus) One of the purposes of the following data is to direct attention to the proper use as food of a greatly maligned fish, the burbot; to look behind those unattractive external features, which have been largely responsible for the prejudice against it, and to show that behind those features there is food value of high quality.

The Burbot or Ling has the distinction of being the sole representative of the codfish family in fresh water. All its relatives live in the sea. It is also commonly called ling, lawyer, and eelpout. The scientific name “Lota” is from Old French, “Lotte”, which is equivalent to “pout”.

There are two features by which the burbot may be distinguished from other freshwater fishes of our area: (I) the ‘single prominent barbel on the underside of the chin near the tip; and (2) the small embedded cycloid scales. Like the burbot, the tomcod of the Atlantic coast has a single barbel on the underside of the chin, but it has three dorsal fins and the burbot has only two. The body is light to dark brown in colour, elongated (up to 40 inches or more) and compressed behind; the head and eyes are small and the mouth large. Overlying the brown colour of the body are blotches and spots of darker brown or black. The dorsal, caudal and anal tins are mottled.

The burbot is found throughout Ontario from the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay. From the eastern portion of Hudson Bay drainage, it ranges to Connecticut, Delaware and Susquehanna systems and all the Great Lakes basins; in the Missouri River system, south to Missouri, Kansas and Wyoming; in the Mississippi River and tributaries, throughout Minnesota and northwest to Alaska. The same species occurs in the waters of northern Europe and Asia.

During the summer, burbot seek the cool water of deep lakes and streams but, at other seasons of the year, it may be found at all depths. It has been found to a depth of 700 feet. At such depths, it feeds upon deep-water chubs, members of the
whitefish family. In streams, the immatures may be found among patches of plants, the half-grown in stony riffles and the adults under undercut banks. Anglers take them in fairly large numbers when ice-fishing for other species, probably owing to the practice of prebaiting for Whitefish.

After spawning, burbot move into the mouths of large rivers and into shallow bays under the ice. During this migration, they feed extensively. Spawning: Burbot spawn in mid-winter or in early spring before the ice has melted. In Ontario, the spawning season ranges from January to March. They have been found spawning in the swift water of streams in mid-winter. Fry have been found, with the yolk sac still persisting, when the temperature was 35°F. They also spawn on the sandy bottoms and gravelly shoals of lakes. They are prolific spawners and some are probably sexually mature when two years old. Some mature fish do not spawn every year.

Generally, small burbot feed on small food items and large burbot feed mostly on larger items. The food sequence may be as follows: insects, gammarids, crayfish and
fish. But, it will kill fishes its own size. The burbot competes with lake trout and other sport fishes for food and preys heavily upon the young of most species.

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