Taste and Nutrition
Most commercial fishers will readily agree that burbot is a little-known delicacy. Its firm, white flesh resembles that of cod and haddock, which should be no surprise since it is a member of the freshwater cod family. It is often served as “Poor Man’s Lobster” by steaming chunks of meat and dipping them in drawn butter. Burbot is also excellent when fried.
The vitamin D potency of burbot liver oil is as high as that obtained from cod liver. Almost a hundred years ago it was discovered that foxes raised in captivity and fed burbot had better quality fur. The liver was found to be very high in vitamin D and A even when compared to good grades of cod liver oil. A burbot’s liver is about 10% of its body weight and six times bigger than that of other freshwater fish of the same size.
How They Are Harvested
Burbot is classified as a rough fish by the state of Wisconsin, meaning that it is an unregulated fishery. The burbot has never been of commercial importance in the state because of its low market demand. Even in the very early years of commercial fishing on the Great Lakes, most burbot were discarded from whitefish and lake trout nets, except for a few sent to local markets. This is still the case today, except for one enterprising commercial fisherman on Door County’s Washington Island. Ken Koyen fishes for burbot and serves them up at his restaurant KK Fiske and The Granary.