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10:06 p.m. - 2006-04-15
The eelpout! (New pics 12/20/07)
Hello, all of y'all critter lovers!

I hope you're well and have been enjoying the amazingly fast changes of spring. Today I smelled a flowering tree blossom, and spotted some lovely tulips.

R and I took a lovely walk at the park near his home, where we saw duckies, geese, and...a bunch of turtles sunning themselves!

We love turtles! I imagined how happy and warm they were after a long, cold winter.

MM and TS came home with a new baby tree today, a gingko for the front yard. MM is also responsible for today's critter entry: The Mysterious Eelpout! Eelpout1

I first learned about the eelpout this winter, yet another creature unknown to Wendell! Indeed, MN has a whole FESTIVAL dedicated to this special fish.

The eelpout (Lota lota) is special because it is the only freshwater cod species! It is known as freshwater cod, as well as burbot, ling, and lawyer. The word burbot descends from the Latin "barba", or "beard", as the fish is distinguished by its single chin whisker, or barbel.

Eelpouts reside in the northern states of the U.S. and in Canada, although their range extends south to northern Missouri. They are about 15 to 22 inches long, and one to three pounds. Apparently burbots can reach up to 46 inches long! Most active in winter, these fish love deep, cold water, usually preferring depths of 30 to 50 feet. In Lake Superior, eelpout have been found in waters 1,000 feet deep!

My sister K and her cute boyfriend, CE, caught some eelpout this winter in my WI hometown, even though they were fishing for other species. For the fishermen out there, here are some fishing suggestions for eelpout! First, eelpout are inactive in summer, so ice fishing is the best way to catch them. The fish gravitate towards deep offshore humps, or shallows adjacent to deep areas. These are the same spots walleye prefer in the summer. Apparently fluorescent and glowing lures are essential, along with a slow up and down motion. A minnow makes for good bait, and rattling lures can be effective as well.

Eelpout are also (allegedly) delicious! They must be cleaned like catfish or bullheads (that is, skinned) and produce lovely boneless filets along the spine. These filets can either be breaded and fried, or chopped into chunks, boiled, and dipped into melted butter; with the latter preparation, burbot apparently tastes like lobster. In France and Scandinavia, eelpout liver is considered a delicacy!

I want to try some! (Of the fish, not so much the liver.)

Eelpout nooky is an orgy! In late January to mid-February, boy and girl fish congregate together in shallow water. In groups of twelve to over one hundred, the burbots writhe together, females releasing up to one million eggs apiece, and males spurting their "milt".

Side note: I've never heard the word "milt" before.

Thirty days later, the fertilized eelpout eggies hatch, releasing babies that will live in shallow lake water and streams for the next four years. The little eelpout eat a mostly insect-based diet, gradually adding the fish, crustaceans and small rodents (!) the adults eat.

As mentioned above, eelpout populate Europe as well. The variety there is slightly larger, and scientists think the arm of a prehistoric sea abandoned the eelpout in Minnesota as it retreated. Interesting.

Well, I'm looking forward to seeing one of these spotted big boys someday! If you're a fisherman and would like to give me an eelpout report, feel free to do so!

Slimy and wiggly,


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