Animals -> Fish -> Freshwater Fish -> Burbot


Burbot, also known as loche, were reported as caught in autumn, winter or spring using hooks, nets, weirs or traps [1, 5, 8, 9, 18, 25, 28, 32, 33, 37, 38]. Mackenzie Delta Inuvialuit and Waswanipi Cree caught burbot with nets. Waswanipi used nets only during spawning season in February and March and monitored the nets twice a day; hooks were also used [27, 28]. The Peel River Kutchin primarily used hooks, but they also caught burbot incidentally in nets set for other fish [33]. The Attawapiskat (Western Cree) used baited bone hooks and the Fort Nelson Slave used weirs [8, 9, 18]. The Ingalik caught them using winter traps, into which they were steered by weirs. The burbot were retrieved from the traps with special rakes six to eight feet long [37].

The Attawapiskat Western Cree attached hooks to a pole set in ice, usually setting twenty to thirty hooks concurrently [9]. Inupiat of Northwest Alaska fished by jigging with four-barbed hooks which were usually baited, and often used sinker lures made from mammoth tooth that looked like small fish. Sinker lure holes were drilled for the line [5]. The Fort Nelson Slave usually built their fish weirs during the summer, setting them in shallow creeks or rivers [8].

The Peel River Kutchin were reported to prepare the flesh in three ways: broiled, roasted or boiled. When broiling, they parted the flesh, keeping it open with willow branches. It was roasted by laying the entire fish beside a fire with a shielding log operating as an oven. When boiling, the fish was sliced in slivers and added to a basket of water containing hot stones [33].

Burbot liver was noted as a delicacy among various Indigenous Peoples including the Peel River Kutchin, circumpolar Indigenous Peoples, Lillooet, and Shuswap [25, 29, 33]. The Chalkyitsik Kutchin of Alaska avoided the flesh, consuming only the roe and liver [32]; however, the Champagne and Aishihik, Vuntut Gwich’in and Teslin Tlingit, ate the liver, stomach and roe occasionally, but usually ate only the flesh [40].

The Sahtu/Hareskin Dene (Sahtu) ate raw and baked burbot flesh, liver and skin and also ate burbot eggs and head [10, 13, 16, 17]. The Attawapiskat (Western Cree) ate the flesh and liver, the latter being described as “good as cod liver oil”. They considered burbot a delicacy but did not consume its head because “it had too many bones” [9]. The Chandalar Kutchin relished the liver because it added fat to their diet [11]. The Dogrib used drying as one method of preparation. The fish was scaled, slashed through the backbone and stomach, and finally boned, removing the entrails, but leaving the head in place. The carcass was dried on a stick with the head up and stored in cotton bags or cardboard or wood boxes. The dried fillets and dried dorsal sections were pounded and ground; fine powdery shreds could be stored in bags and then cooked with fat (often caribou tallow or lard) and cooled to harden. At times, berries such as cranberries and roe were added to the mixture to make a fish pemmican [7].


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The burbot (Lota lota) is a freshwater fish, widely distributed in North America above 40o latitude, and is found in every Canadian province, except Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Other common names for the burbot include loche and maria and the French common name is lotte.

The burbot is classified in the same family as marine species of cod, haddock, pollock, and hake. The burbot looks somewhat like a cross between an eel and a catfish, with a long, smooth-skinned body and a single whisker under its chin. The species has two dorsal fins, with the second greatly elongated and joined to the caudal fin. The anal fin on the fish’s underside is also elongated and joined to the caudal fin. The back and sides are brownish with black and dark brown splotches. Maximum recorded total length is 152 cm and maximum published weight is 34 kg. Length at first reproduction is 35 - 40 cm.

Burbot occur in well oxygenated rivers and streams as well as large lakes, usually associated with deep water. They are a slow moving fish, most active between dusk and dawn, seeking shelter under rocks and roots or in crevices and dense vegetation when inactive. Smaller individuals feed on insect larvae, crayfish, and other invertebrates. Larger individuals feed on fish. Spawning occurs under the ice in late January. At this time, burbot move from deep to shallow water and congregate in large groups of tangled bodies releasing eggs and milt. Females can lay a million eggs in one season, which are broadcast in shallow water. Eggs are dense enough to sink to the bottom where they roll along with any current and hatch within 3-4 weeks.


1.         Wooding FH: Lake, river and sea-run fishes of Canada. Madeira Park, BC, Canada: Harbour Publishing; 1997.

2.         "Lota lota" []


Images provided below were obtained from: Encyclopedia of Life. Available from
© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Supplier: National Museum of Natural History Collections
This map is based on occurrence records available through the GBIF network