Ryan Scott Ashley from Gilmanton, NH, caught the freshwater cusk on January 13, 2022, in Lake Winnipesaukee—the largest lake in the state.
The fish measured 35 inches in length and weighed 12 pounds, 8.48 ounces, making it a new state record freshwater cusk catch, New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) said in a social media post.
Freshwater cusk, otherwise known as burbot or by their scientific name Lota lota, are found throughout the world in northern latitudes.
In North America, their range extends from Canada to Connecticut on the east coast and Oregon on the west coast. The fish are mainly found in large, deep lakes, which maintain their cold temperature throughout the warmer months, as well as cold water rivers and streams.
The fish are usually only found in water with temperatures measuring below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Burbot that live in lakes tend to grow to much larger sizes that those found in flowing water systems, which rarely reach lengths greater than 12 inches. The previous state record burbot was also caught in Lake Winnipesaukee, measuring 34.5 inches in length and weighing 12.22 pounds.
The burbot is the only freshwater member of the cod family. It is characterized by its eel-shaped body, large mouth, and smooth skin—which is cream-colored on the fish’s underbody and features olive brown to black mottled markings above.
For long periods of the year, burbot live under the ice and they require cold temperatures to breed. In fact, burbot spawn under the ice in mid-to-late winter—the only fish in New Hampshire known to do so.
The females of this species are extremely productive, with larger individuals capable of laying more than one million eggs, according to NHFG. The eggs hatch in early spring.
Burbot populations are difficult to study because the fish often live in deepwater habitats and reproduce under the ice.
The fish is distributed widely across the globe and is abundant, although populations have been threatened or wiped out in certain locations.
Being a cold water species, burbot is potentially vulnerable to climate change. As the climate warms, water temperatures in parts of the fish’s range could be affected to the extent that they are unsuitable for supporting burbot populations, for example.
The world-record burbot catch, according to the International Game Fish Association, weighed 25 pounds, 2 ounces. The fish was caught by Sean Konrad on March 27, 2010 on Lake Diefenbaker, saskatchewan, Canada.