One underestimated sport fish in BC that many anglers don’t consider targeting are Burbot; also known as Freshwater Ling Cod to many. There are numerous lakes in British Columbia that are home to these fish.
Burbot are a predator fish and very aggressive feeders; sometimes they will feed on fish almost the same size as themselves. Some of the main food sources for Burbot are Kokanee, Whitefish, Trout and sometimes Perch. These fish hunt at night by tracking down their prey by smell and sound. The average size of Burbot in BC range between 2 and 5lbs, but can reach over 20lbs! Usually Burbot are found in deeper waters of over 100 feet. But in the winter months between January and March these fish move into the shallows to spawn, sometimes in water depths of only a couple of meters. This is why ice fishing is an excellent opportunity to target these fish.
Mineral Lake in the East Kootenay Rockies near Cranbrook is an excellent Burbot fishery for ice fishing. The lake is located south of Cranbrook on Hwy 3 near MoyieLake. The access to the lake is very easy to get to in all times of the year. It also offers superb fishing for Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout in the hard and open water seasons.
The lake has a day use picnic and car top boat launch area at the north end of the lake near the entrance.
When targeting Burbot on MineralLake we found the ledges on the east side of the lake produced the best. Throughout January and February fish the ledges during the afternoon into the later evening part of the day. The fish will start to make their way up into the shallows as the sun goes down. Drilling a series of holes from the shoreline out towards the middle of the lake will help improve your odds to discover the best depth to find these fish. Usually depths between 10 and 30 feet in the evening are successful.
How to Ice Fish for Burbot:
Since Burbot are attracted to smell, scent is the key to draw them to your lure! They tend not to be concerned about quality of bait, but to quantity. Good baits to use are shrimp, worm, roe, bacon, maggots, and even squid from the grocery store. Scented bait gels will also help lure them to your bait. Make it stink!
Hooks & Jigs: Burbot have very large mouths so your jig size isn’t as important as your bait. In smaller lakes were Burbot are going to be on the smaller side a regular trout fishing jig will work. Let it GLO! Glo hooks and jigs will improve your odds! I recommend to bring two fishing rod set ups. Have one line in the water while the other jig is under a bright LED flashlight to make sure the GLO is well charged. Every 5 to 7 minutes switch out the lines to recharge. Having an ice fishing tent will also help keep you warm and comfortable throughout the later hours of the evenings.
Burbot are usually on the bottom of the lake so make sure to present your bait within 6 inches of the bottom. Slow jigging will help attract the fish and entice some bites. I have found an effective presentation is a drop shot set up. Sit the weight on the bottom of the lake floor and have your hook up on the line 4 to 6 inches. Slowly jig your line keeping contact with the bottom; this will give your presentation the right movement to trigger the bite.
The bite is decent and you will feel it. Set the hook by simply lifting the rod up with a straight arm then continue to reel. The fight is not much but you will find the fish to swim in circles as it makes its way to the surface. Once you have the fish don’t be surprised if it tries to wrap its body around your arm as they are snake like.
Burbot are not the most attractive fish, but like saltwater Ling Cod, they make excellent table fare as fish and chips!
So if you are looking for an evening ice fishing adventure all you need is some good company to get you through the later hours and a lake with some Burbot! Trust me it’s an adventure that you will remember!
Tight lines & Conserve our waters!