Fish, Fisheries and Queryomics
The burbot Lota lota, a fish with such an unsavory reputation that it is forced to operate under several aliases (burbot, cusk, eelpout, freshwater cod, lawyer, ling, lingcod, loche, lush, mariah, spineless catfish, among others), is now the object of a intensive manhunt in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Utah and Wyoming: The 2013 Burbot Bash Fishing Derby (3 February 2013).
This is the third installation of this annual event, which outlasted the more melodically-named Ding-a-Ling Ice Fishing Derby (for burbot) that also was held on Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
Originally from northern USA and Canada, the burbot, which has a circumpolar distribution above 40°N latitude, was illegally introduced into a tributary of the Green River, Wyoming and since has worked its way downstream into Flaming Gorge.
Burbot are doing well in their new home and biologists for the Utah and Wyoming fishery agencies are concerned the expanding burbot population will impact sport fisheries in Flaming Gorge, even though there is little evidence that burbot do so within their native range.
However, Flaming Gorge Reservoir is special. The game fish species in this lake, which include rainbow trout, Kokanee salmon, lake trout, brown trout, tiger trout, channel catfish, and smallmouth bass are native. But to other parts of the country! The introduced burbot threatens to upset the apple cart for a bunch of introduced fishes. ¡Que horrible! says Beel.
Naturally, both the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Wyoming Game and Fish Department are keen to have these usurpers eliminated. Really. But rather than hire a hit man, they are using anglers. Anglers pay to purchase a fishing license, pay to enter the derby, are required to kill all the burbot they catch, and may then win up to $10K if one of their burbot has a special tag. Kind of like a fishery version of Powerball. Except to the burbot.
These are the same two state agencies that famously poisioned nearly 500 miles of the Green River in September 1962 to remove nusiance fish from the river before Flaming Gorge was impounded. Among the “nuisance” fish removed were Colorado pikeminnow Ptchocheilus lucius, bonytail chub Gila elegans, razorback sucker Xyrauchen texas, and the largest known population (at that time) of humpback chub Gila cypha. All of these species now are federally-listed as endangered.
Utah and Wyoming don’t mess around when it comes to making the world a better place for rainbow trout.
Beel’s advice to the burbot? Move to Leech Lake, Minnesota. At least you stand a chance of being smooched there, rather than “bashed” or “dinged.”