MONTHLY FISHING UPDATE

How to: Catch a burbot

 With a little preparation, you too can master the art of burbot fishing. 


12/19/2016 2:30:51 PM

Cheyenne - Since their illegal introduction nearly two decades ago, burbot have become a popular fishery on Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are encouraging anglers to harvest burbot in an effort to reduce their abundance and the impact they are having on the sport fishery.

Numerous burbot ice fishing tournaments have been held on Flaming Gorge Reservoir in recent years.  Beyond the large numbers of fish removed at each of these derbies, it is striking how many participants struggle to catch burbot.  With a little preparation, you too can master the art of burbot fishing.  Remember, every burbot removed from Flaming Gorge Reservoir represents a savings in sport fish, like kokanee salmon and smallmouth bass!

Time of day

Burbot are typically most active at night. During the day, they find dark recesses under rocks and in holes and cracks in the rocky habitats that line the reservoir. Around sunset, they emerge from hiding to feed.  The first few hours following sunset and prior to sunrise can be very productive periods. Consider hitting the ice in the late afternoon to secure a good spot for the evening and do a little fishing for lake trout pups. Limits on Flaming Gorge Reservoir are liberal for lake trout less than 28 inches (pups). This will insure you are ready to go when the burbot bite starts around sunset. Some anglers also talk about a productive bite in the middle of the night.

Location

Good burbot fishing is most commonly associated with rocky areas both on the main body and within larger bays of the reservoir or the habitats immediately adjacent to rocky habitats. The substrate may vary greatly, but rocky substrates are always good!  Rocky substrate harbors crayfish; the primary prey for burbot. The deep vertical habitat immediately in front of most cliffs tends to hold few burbot. Instead, target the habitat adjacent to cliffs and rocky areas with a slope typically less than 60 degrees. The mouth of bays tucked within a large cliff complex can also be good, especially if there is shoal or gradual sloping, rocky bottom associated with it. Underwater cliffs with areas adjacent for burbot to forage are often overlooked, but can be very productive. Another good spot is a foraging area (rocky slope less than 60 degrees) adjacent to a cliff complex within a bay. Use a topographic map of Flaming Gorge Reservoir to identify promising areas to fish (for example:  Fish-n-Map Company available from local stores or online at www.fishnmap.com or use an app like Navionics for boating). Good maps will help you select productive locations to fish and help you identify roads to access these areas.

Set up

Once you have identified and selected your spot, it’s time to get set up.  The folks that catch a lot of Burbot through the ice are augering 20-30 or more holes before wetting a line.  By drilling holes early, you are not disturbing the fish during "prime time". Burbot can be caught at any depth, but fishing near the bottom in 10 to 50 feet tends to be the most productive. If you are fishing with multiple lines, spread them across a range of depths to start. Remember, on Flaming Gorge you can fish up to six rods or tip-ups per angler through the ice, so take advantage of it! As the night progresses, consolidate lines near the depths that are producing the most fish. Lures should be fished within inches of the bottom and if you fish a hole for more than 15 minutes without a bite – try a different hole. Many successful angler groups are spreading out across the available habitat and do not fish close to other groups. It’s important to get away from the noise and commotion of other groups.  

Tackle

Lures that glow are a must for Burbot.  Glow lures come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and can be purchased in local tackle stores or by searching the web for “glow lures” or “lures that glow”. Jigs with grub or tube bodies, or jigging spoons from ¼-½ ounce weight with a wide hook gap (2/0-4/0) are recommended. Burbot are not lure or line shy so use a lure of sufficient weight to get you down to depth quickly. The glow for most lures dim in 15 to 20 minutes so it is critical to recharge the glow regularly.  In recent years, anglers have been experimenting with glowing lures that rattle and vibrate when jigged, both of which can be very productive.

The glowing lure attracts the fish, while bait such as sucker or chub meat seals the deal. A small strip of meat (skin on) less than 1 inch by ½ inch is plenty to provide some scent and flavor to make them bite.  Keep in mind - burbot have hard mouths and get big. Stout sharp hooks and strong fishing line (8-12lb test) are a must.

Technique

Burbot angling is an active sport.  Anglers catching lots of burbot are actively fishing and constantly moving from hole to hole. Jig a rod lightly, while watching your other stationary rods or tip-ups. Tip-ups can be very productive, but anglers should be jigging at least one rod for active fish while waiting for flags to go up. Remember to check tip-ups every 20 minutes or so. Burbot will frequently swallow a lure under a tip-up and not move or trigger the flag. Don’t be shy about hand jigging your tip-up lines when you check them too. A little movement will often provoke a strike and you should always be ready for an unexpected bite. Finally, recharge your lure every time you check your rod or tip-ups. The better the glow the more burbot the lure will attract. Flash lights and headlamps work to recharge lures, but UV lights made for recharging glow lures work better.  

As mentioned earlier, the most successful burbot anglers start by drilling at least 20 or more holes. They typically don’t fish more than 10-15 minutes in a hole without a bite before moving to a new hole. Burbot sometimes move and forage in small schools.  If you catch one from a hole there will likely be more Burbot close by. Get the first fish on the ice and your lure back down to the bottom as quick as possible. More times than not, you will ice more burbot within minutes of the first.

A note about boat fishing

Much of the information provided also applies to fishing for burbot at night from a boat.  Anglers catching large numbers of burbot from boats have noted burbot become more active when water temperatures are below 50 ºF. Boat anglers can either vertically jig or cast lures toward shore. When you cast a jig, work your lure along the bottom with an erratic retrieve. The most important consideration for night fishing from a boat is having all the appropriate safety and navigation equipment to operate a boat safely. In addition to the required safety gear, boats should also be equipped with a spotlight and GPS.

Don’t forget

Make sure to bring along on your burbot outing a large trash bag or cooler to transport your catch home after you've caught a mess of fish. A couple of towels are also helpful, as burbot can be a bit slimy and it's nice to dry your hands after you handle one. A flashlight or headlamp is a must when night fishing. Extra flash lights can also be positioned to shine on rod tips or tip-ups to help identify strikes. And don’t forget to dress warm; overnight temps on the Gorge can get below 0 degrees so dressing with your warmest layers is essential! Most importantly, if you’re heading out fishing at night, someone should also know where you plan to fish and when you plan to return.

(Wyoming Game and Fish (307) 777-4600)

- WGFD -

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