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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 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.
Distribution 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.
Habitat 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.