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B is for Burbot

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Ronan's report


Tuesday 16 December, 2014

The past few days have been a strange mix of temperatures from 15 degrees above freezing to 20 degree below freezing, cloudy to sunny, rain to sleet to snow. A standard weekend in southern Alberta. Because I haven't been able to go out fishing, I have been thinking of the various fishes of Alberta.

Most fish in Alberta spawn in low water in the fall, or immediately before, during, or after the spring flood. There is one exception, a very much maligned fish. This fish is often caught during ice fishing and thrown into the bushes because it looks uglier than trout or walleye and it's not as predatory looking as pike.

"B" is for burbot, a type of cod.
They look like an eel had sex with a frog.
They live on the bottom, in lakes and rivers.
They're quite ferrocious and give people shivers.

Burbot (Lota lota) are known as lingcod or ling or just plain trash. But, they are a member of the cod family and, despite their strange elongated appearance, they are as tasty as fish get in Alberta.

Burbot are unique in that they spawn in the middle of the winter in a deep pool in a river or lake. They gather in a large congregation and have a very big fishy orgy, releasing eggs and milt to sink onto the rocks on the bottom. As the fish are preparing for the orgy, in the orgy, and resting after they are very vulnerable to harvest. Ice fishermen can easily get their bait down to the burbot and begin hauling them up. And because they look ugly and folks think they eat trout and walleye eggs, they get trashed rather then released.

Burbot are actually a top level predator and are critical in maintaining balance in ecosystems, such as sharks and tuna balance ocean ecosystems. Burbot act as a control for small fish like minnows that reproduce quickly. They, like walleye and pike, and big trout, provide the check that keeps the carrying capacity from being exceeded- in a perfect world.

Thinking outside of the trout box,
Harps


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