Brett McComas is known as the man behind the keyboard at TargetWalleye.com and the immensely popular Target Walleye e-Newsletter. He’s a self-diagnosed walleye nut but he loves chasing burbot too, especially during ice fishing season. Some people call them burbot, some call them eelpout. McComas says there are several more names they go by. “It’s got probably a dozen names that I know of and every time I cruise around on the internet, I come across another one. I just ran across an article about people targeting them in New Hampshire and I’m pretty sure they called them cusk. They’re a blast to catch.”
“It’s grown into one of my favorite species. The whole reason I started fishing them is in Minnesota when the rest of the game fish seasons closed, walleye, pike, bass, you’re left with your medium and medium-heavy rods and they’re gathering dust in the garage. You still want to ice fish for the month and a half, sometimes two months of the ice season. You can chase crappies and bluegills. I really wanted to catch something that actually fought back and stopped the rod when I set the hook. Burbot do that and they do it really well. A four-to-six pound burbot isn’t a giant, it’s kind of a medium-sized one. It fights like you wouldn’t believe.”
Ice fishing for burbot doesn’t require any special equipment or gear. McComas says he uses a lot of the same tackle for burbot that he uses for walleyes. “It’s cool to fish with your walleye gear. You fish traditional walleye spots. There’s burbot there and they’re usually hungry.”
Burbot eat mostly during dark hours but McComas says there’s a short period of time that they will bite all day long. “You can catch them all year. In January and February in these parts(Brainerd Lakes area), you can usually get a few a night. A pretty good night is five fish. Once you get to the back half of February, usually for me it’s the 23rd or 25th, it’s when those numbers start to bump up. I would say the best week here in Central Minnesota is just after the first week of March. March 5th through the 10th is when things get magical… During that magic week, you can catch them during the day which is unreal.”
Burbot frequent deep water but will often move into shallower haunts to feed. “You want really deep water close. I like to fish with some of the largest, deepest basins behind me. I like fishing large feeding flats. Look on the map and find the biggest flat on the lake. It might be a place where in the spring you troll spinners and pitch jigs for walleyes. It might be a cabbage flat where fish for bass all year. Those fish are there for the same reason the burbot are. The biggest feeding flats are where the most baitfish are and the most food for them. I like to fish the edges of those breaks as long as they butt up to deep water.”
When it comes to his favorite lures, McComas loves using glow lures. “The brighter, the better, and heavier is better because you want to pound the bottom. If I was going to tie on one bait to burbot fish for the rest of my life, it would be a spoon that is actually designed for burbot which is pretty outrageous. There’s finally enough of a following that companies are making spoons for them. It’s called the Big Nasty Tackle Trout-N-Pout Spoon. They come in heavy sizes up to 1-3/8 ounce. It’s super dense and allows you to pound the bottom, stir things up, and put lots of vibration in the water so that they can feel that and sense where it is. When the bite is really hot, I’ll switch to a one-ounce jig you would use for walleye fishing. As long as it’s bright glow. If you have a lot of fish down there, and they inhale that thing it drives me nuts trying to take a spoon off when there’s four burbot on the graph.”
When it comes to bait, McComas loads up his jigs and spoons with as much meat as possible. “You want lots of stink on there. I’ll pile as many minnows on there as I can. I’ll make sure I have enough hook showing. But if I can find golden shiners, I’ll put a shiner head on each of the treble hooks because they are about the stinkiest minnow there is. Fatheads work great too and they’re way cheaper… I’ve even played around with spraying crayfish and shad scents on the minnows. It definitely seems to help which is pretty interesting. They say burbot don’t have great eyesight so you want the brightest glowing bait and the most stink you can have down there.”
We discussed burbot fishing with Brett McComas on the Fish House Nation Podcast. To listen to the full conversation with McComas, click on the player below or click here to visit our podcast page.