Tastes like cod, looks like eel. We’ve added the burbot to our diet. Not the same as ling cod, I am told. This is a different species, Lota lota, isolated to cold fresh waters. It goes by many monikers, including the Inuktitut word, Tiktaalik and my favorite, for this bottom-feeder, “the lawyer.”
The Yukon River is home to the burbot and catching them has added a new distractor to the winter. My very first hole yielded nothing other than dirt, as my auger plunged through the three feet of ice! Hard on the blades and all the more reason to not borrow an auger from your best friend! But once you get out of the dirt, there is much to discover.
Water depth, hole location, current tolerance, inside or beyond the “mud line.” Bait. Keeping the lines from freezing in. Daily checking. Chiseling. Filleting. Then there is the human factor, chiefly, keeping ones fingers attached and functional. Protecting the ears and nose, although less critical to the task at hand, is another desirable objective. The cold has been relentless, and at -35 I pulled the lines. Retreated like a whipped dog to the comforts of home, nursing the scabs of flesh on my cheek.
Surprised by that “beat up” feeling. Surprised to be content to add another log to the fire and monitoring the weather from the inside of a window. Surprised at the length and depth of cold this winter. But it has been worth it to have burbot in the diet. Very tasty, and the “cod-ness” brings me back to my childhood on the east coast. And we have been frying up the livers for vitamin D. Even tried some raw! And raw burbot liver is not offensive like the cod liver oil of my childhood memories. It is rather bland, but still, unmistakably like raw liver…
As soon as temperatures allow, I’ll be back at the burbot holes. Its funny that eating “the lawyer” might be the very action that brings added justice to our diet!