It’s not true, Matt Breuer says, that a burbot can wrap itself around an angler’s arm like a boa constrictor.

“A burbot will try to do that, but it can’t,” Breuer says.

Breuer concedes, however, that it’s creepy that a burbot can fold itself nearly in half while being hoisted from a lake’s chilled depths and come up a hole backward.

A Bemidji-area fishing guide, Breuer, 38, has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with a fish many Minnesotans find too ugly and serpentine to even like.

“I grew up fishing Lake of the Woods in winter with my dad, and whenever he caught a burbot he’d cut the line,” he said. “But I was more curious about them, and as I got older I began targeting them more and more.”

Minnesota is host to no better wintertime fighting fish than a burbot, Breuer said, except perhaps a big lake trout. “That’s why I like them,” he said. “Like most fishermen, I like the bend of the rod, and the harder the fight, the better.”

The burbot is a workingman’s fish, Breuer said, because it bites mostly at night. “A guy can go to work, come home, eat with the family and then go out at night and fish for burbot,” he said.

A pro angler who is appearing at the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show, which ends Sunday at RiverCentre, Breuer advises anglers targeting burbot to try big glow spoons rigged with gobs of minnow pieces. Oftentimes found near a lake bottom, burbot — which essentially are fresh water cod — also can be found suspended.

“They’re basically blind,” he said. “They feed by smell and vibration.”

Burbot, which are unprotected in Minnesota, might appear clumsy, but they can be tenacious predators that swiftly pursue minnows and other fish, aided by their flexibility and the size of their tails.

They also make good table fare, Breuer said, when the burbot’s back strap and tail meat are cubed and boiled in seasoned water. The finished product can be dipped in melted butter before being eaten.

“Most people can’t get past the fact that burbot look so funky and disgusting,” Breuer said. “They are slimy. And yes, they might try to wrap themselves around your arm, like something out of ‘The Exorcist.’ But don’t worry, they can’t succeed.”

 

Dennis Anderson

danderson@startribune.com