Burbot (Ling Cod) (Lota lota)

 See also: Lake Whitefish, Lake Trout, Northern Pike and Burbot.

Burbot (Lota lota), a unique and intriguing fish species, inhabit the waters of Lake Simcoe and offer ice fishing enthusiasts an exciting opportunity during the winter months. Known colloquially as eelpout or freshwater ling, burbot exhibit distinct feeding and spawning behaviors that make them an appealing catch. These nocturnal predators are most active at night, prowling the lake's depths in search of prey. Their diet consists of various aquatic creatures, including fish, crayfish, and small invertebrates. For ice fishing, anglers often employ a range of bait, from live or dead fish to worms and artificial lures like jigs and spoons, to entice burbot during their nighttime forays.

One of the most remarkable aspects of burbot in Lake Simcoe is their winter spawning ritual, setting them apart from many other fish species. During the frigid months of December to February, beneath the ice-covered surface, female burbot deposit their adhesive eggs in rocky or gravelly areas along the lake bottom. Males then release sperm to fertilize these eggs. The unique timing of their spawning, in the dead of winter, presents a thrilling challenge for ice fishing enthusiasts. Anglers who target burbot during this time use specialized techniques and gear to maximize their chances of success. The incubation period for burbot eggs lasts approximately six to eight weeks, with young burbot emerging in late winter or early spring, ensuring the continuation of this fascinating fish's life cycle in Lake Simcoe.

Biology: Burbot, a unique freshwater fish species, exhibit a remarkable spawning behavior. Unlike most other fish, they spawn during the midwinter months, occurring from November to May, with Lake Simcoe's population typically spawning between January and March. These spawning events take place in shallow bays, often in water depths of 1-4 feet, with a substrate consisting of sand, gravel, or cobble free of silt. The entire spawning season is relatively short, lasting only 2 to 3 weeks, and not all adult fish spawn each year, adding to their intriguing biology.

Ontario Angling Record: In the winter of 2017, a record-breaking burbot weighing 17.95 pounds was officially caught from Lake Simcoe, establishing it as the largest burbot ever recorded in Ontario. A video capturing the entire process, from the burbot's capture to its weighing, can be viewed on YouTube, showcasing this remarkable achievement by an angler.

Lake Simcoe Diet: Burbot are voracious predators, with more than 80% of their diet comprising fish. They become particularly active around dusk. Adult burbot prey on a variety of fish species, including emerald shiners, herring, yellow perch, smelt, suckers, sculpins, and sticklebacks. Additionally, the introduction and rapid population growth of Round Gobies in Lake Simcoe have likely added this invasive fish to their menu. Burbot also feed on crayfish and invertebrates they browse from the lake bottom during the winter months.

Recommended Baits: Anglers have reported success in catching burbot using glow-in-the-dark spoons or small spoons tipped with minnows. Other effective baits include standard spoons, vibrato, small minnow-type imitation baits fished near the lake bottom, glow-in-the-dark jigheads, or badboys tipped with live or salted shiners. Some anglers have found success with sucker belly meat or frozen herring when using tip-up setups.

Depth Range: Burbot fishing tends to be most productive in depths of 12-15 feet during the spawning season. However, earlier in the season, they can often be found in deeper waters ranging from 20 to 50 feet.

Current Lake Simcoe Regulations: Lake Simcoe maintains a very liberal catch limit for burbot, and there are currently no seasonal angling restrictions in place, making it an appealing destination for burbot enthusiasts.

Recommended Locations: Prime locations for targeting burbot in Lake Simcoe include shoal areas like Long Shoal or Cooks Bay Shoal, as well as drop-off ledges leading into deeper waters. Some anglers have also reported successful burbot catches off Fox and Snake Islands, particularly in areas leading into deeper waters.

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