As NAFC Senior Field Test Coordinator, I spend my days at the office seeking out the latest and greatest gear, tackle, lures, accessories and outerwear for NAFC members to try out and review for North American Fisherman magazine. But I’m also a diehard fisherman and NAFC Life Member who spends every possible moment on the water. And when it’s winter around my Minnesota home, that usually means ice fishing walleyes and perch.
However, I always reserve the second weekend of March for targeting the ugly, yet awesome, eelpout, in northern Minnesota with fellow NAFC member and fishing guide Matt Breuer.
Eelpout—also called freshwater cod, burbot, cusk, lawyer, ling, mother eel, mud blower and spineless catfish—average 1 to 3 pounds and vary in color from a mottled green or gray to black with a cream colored belly, with an eel-like tail.
For best action, time a trip in mid-March to coincide with the spawning period, when fish hit hard and fight even harder. Prime hours of the day are from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Target muddy humps in the 20-foot range, and probe the structure with your electronics to pinpoint fish. Sometimes fish will be more active and position themselves on the top of the hump, while other times they’ll hug bottom at the base of the structure.
Jigging spoons tipped with meat often produces pig ‘pout, but when fish are less aggressive, as was the case during my last trip, use tip-ups to suspend a couple shiners or fatheads (live or dead) 6 inches to a foot off bottom.
There’s a reason anglers call eelpout “poor man’s lobster,” they taste great. To find out for yourself, fillet out and skin the “backstraps” and cut the meat into 2-inch chunks. Boil the meat in lobster-boil-seasoned water, then dip in melted butter.
The white meat has a rich seafood taste, and is truly a treat.
IF YOU GO
If you’d like to fish eelpout—not to mention perch, pike, walleyes, crappies and ‘gills—with Matt Breuer of Northcountry Guide Service, call him at (218) 444-6479, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.northcountryguides.com.