Oneida Lake Education Initiative

"Your gateway to understanding Oneida Lake"


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  • Oneida Lake individuals may be as long as 27 inches, as heavy as 7.5 pounds, and be more than 9 years old
  • Eat fish almost exclusively, but will eat crayfish and other invertebrates
  • New York’s only freshwater fish that spawns under the ice in midwinter


Burbot have an odd appearance, and look somewhat like a cross between a bullhead and an eel. They have an elongated body with a single prominent chin barbel, and have long dorsal fins, which are similar in appearance to those of the American eel. The burbot’s back is dark brown, its sides are colored with yellowish tan and dark brown splotches, and the belly is yellow. Burbot are covered with tiny, deeply embedded scales that give it a "slimy" feeling, and are sometimes called “ling” or “lawyer” because they are so slippery.


Burbot are cold-water fish found sporadically across New York. They usually live at great depths in large lakes and rivers, but are sometimes found in cool water streams that have plenty of hiding places. Warmer temperatures in recent years have led to declines in Oneida Lake burbot populations. Juveniles generally eat zooplankton and insects, while adults eat other fish. In Oneida Lake, burbot eat mostly yellow perch and pumpkinseed sunfish, but also eat crayfish, amphipods, and scuds.


Burbot spawn at night, and are the only freshwater fish in New York to spawn under the ice during the winter. To spawn, large groups gather in shallow water, with ten to 12 fish forming spawning fish balls. The average female produces 500,000 eggs each winter, and eggs are broadcast over the sandy bottom. The young hatch out in 4-5 weeks, and feed on zooplankton as they drift around under the ice.


Burbot are the only freshwater codfish. Although anglers frequently catch them, most people do not eat them. In the past, Indians and Europeans ate burbot, but today, human consumption is primarily limited to Scandinavian people who consider the livers a delicacy.


To learn more about Burbot ...

Burbot Factsheet (pdf - 107kb)

Oneida Lake Education Initiative Fish Homepage