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Into the Outdoors: The Burbot

For openers this week, I’d like to focus a bit on a type of fishing I’ve never tried.  That would be burbot fishing.  The burbot is the only freshwater member of the cod family, and is found in Pennsylvania mostly in Lake Erie and the farthest northern parts of the Allegheny river.  I stumbled upon some information about them recently, and my interest was piqued.  I’d like to share with you what I found out.

First of all, the burbot is an ugly fish, looking something like a cross between an eel and a snakehead.  In fact, in some places, they are known as eeelpout, apparently due to their eellike appearance. Another common moniker is ling cod. According to what I’ve read, they are also often confused with the bowfin, due mainly to their dorsal fin. The fact that they have barbels makes them look a bit like catfish as well.  When you come right down to it, they are ugly fish. Like their saltwater cousins, however, they are reputed to be really good eating, earning the nickname, shared with other fish, of “poor man’s lobster.”  

My research has also gleaned that the best fishing for burbot around here is from the piers in Erie.  The best baits seem to be nightcrawlers and minnows. Thanksgiving is the unofficial opening day of burbot fishing, and it continues, supposedly, to be hot through December, depending on icing conditions.  This implies a high degree of commitment on the part of the devout burbot angler, as the weather in Erie at that time of year can be nothing short of brutal.  You would certainly have to dress the part in order to have any sort of fun.  

Anyway, I still find myself interested in burbot fishing. If anyone out there has any information that they would like to share, drop me a line at  I’d appreciate any help I can get on this subject.

On another front, a number of outdoor magazines have been zeroing in on the subject of trophy hunting and its implications for deer hunting. The basic question raised is whether or not the obsession with antlers has overshadowed much of the other joy of deer hunting.  Has the Boone and Crockett record book replaced plain old fun?  As much as I dislike ambiguity, I think that the only answer is “yes and no.”  As far as I’m concerned, the only problem with trophy hunting is that it has led to antler restrictions, a policy to which I have always been, and still am, vehemently opposed.  I am of the opinion that bagging any buck is special.  In fact, the one that holds the fondest memories for me is a little spike I shot back in 1977.  It was the last time I hunted with my dad, and it is a moment in time I’ll always cherish. Today, such memories are no longer legal to make, and I think that’s sad.  I guess it all boils down to this:  Trophy hunting is fine if that is what you choose to do, but it shouldn’t be forced on us.  

Dave Lewis sent me a photo of Bob, the bobcat that frequents his property. This was right in his yard. Bobcats are becoming more common around here. They pose little, if any, threat to humans, but they are, after all, predators. They will breed with domestic cats, and have a tendency to kill domestic tomcats.

Wow!  By the time you read this, September will be shot.  It’s October already. The cicadas, a few of which hatch each summer, are singing their swan song. The grasshoppers are big, and caterpillars are searching out places to pupate. If only winter would pass so quickly

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