Burbot on Khopr

Khoper is the southern part of the burbot habitat. The river is spring, the water at a depth in the places where the springs exit is always cold. This allows the burbot to safely wait out the hottest and most unfavorable season – summer. He hibernates and practically does not eat. As the old Cossacks say, “he observes Great Lent.” The burbot becomes active and begins to fatten, leaving its shelter for feeding, only with the autumn cooling of the water. He bites until freezing, then rests for about a week on the first ice and then starts catching again until spawning. But this, as they say, is already a topic for another story. In size, our burbot, or mentyug, as we call it, is significantly inferior to its northern counterparts. Usually in the catches there are fish weighing up to 1.5 kilograms, and very rarely larger ones are caught. According to old fishermen, at a time when the Hopper was still a navigable river and there were much more fish in it, the capture of mustachioed predators weighing up to five kilograms was common.

And the old people definitely clarify that the darker and colder the night, and even with a strong northerly wind with rain or snow, the more active the nibble of the mentug. The worse the weather for the fisherman, the more favorable it is for the burbot. The full moon appears to be adversely affecting his well-being, and the mentug stops feeding altogether until the moon is damaged. I know a couple of fishermen who say that burbot does not bite at all on a new moon. However, at the beginning of the first quarter of the new moon, however, in winter on a privet, I caught my largest burbot, weighing more than two kilograms. In the fall, the Mentyug goes hunting at dusk. It is not a schooling fish, but in a limited space, the so-called camp, which rarely exceeds an area of ​​10-15 square meters, or on the “path” along which it moves to the feeding site and back, there can be up to several dozen fish. If you manage to find the trail, consider yourself lucky – you will not be left without a catch.

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To find such places, I usually put about five zakidushki every 10-15 m and try to throw them at different distances from the shore. Catching the first burbot does not mean at all that you have found the coveted place. This can be judged only with repeated bites during the night and on the following fishing trips. I noticed that there are much more effective bites in parking lots than on the trail. Before spawning, which usually begins at the end of December and lasts until the end of January, burbots often go to shallow areas of coastal dumps, and sometimes to rifts with an average depth of 1.5-3.0 m and hunt for small fish there. Burbot usually avoids dense underwater vegetation, narrow places of a river with a strong current. You will not catch him in a dense snag and in shallow bays, where there is practically no current, and the bottom is muddy and where the water warms up quickly during the day.

In autumn, burbot can also be found in deep places with a rocky bottom, which is very rare on Khopr, and also near the mouths of small tributaries. If you have studied the river well and know where underground springs flow, you can safely catch burbot in these places. Mentyug’s favorite delicacies are gudgeon (bubyr) and ruff-nasar (privet). The most interesting thing is that ruff thorns do not interfere with burbot at all, and experienced fishermen say that just where there is a lot of privet, there is always a mentug somewhere nearby. I get to the place of hunting for burbot, and usually we catch it on the numerous sandy beaches of Khopra, before dark, so that I can unwind and throw the gear before dusk. Before dark, you need to collect a large amount of firewood and kindle several fires in front of the zakidushki – in order to warm yourself, but more to attract burbots. It has long been noticed that the light on the shore on a dark night attracts burbots, and the number of bites increases significantly. Some people use for such purposes “Bat” kerosene lamps, and more recently, large LED lights. But I fish in the old fashioned way, with a fire – and you won’t freeze, and burbot, as it seems to me, for some reason prefers the “natural” light of the fire.

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To catch burbot in open water, I use the usual burbot. The main line is 0.4-0.5 mm, leads are 0.3-0.4 mm, 80 cm long – it’s good when the live bait moves freely along the bottom on a long lead. Sinkers up to 150 g, often homemade, cast in a tablespoon. Be sure to take with me a large supply of ready-made leashes with hooks, since burbot often swallows a hook with bait so that it can then be pulled out only when gutting the fish. I use one leash, although there are those who like to install several of them on one donk. It is advisable to use single hooks No. 4-10 with a long shank, you can also use a double hook No. 7-8 or, in extreme cases, a tee No. 6-7. For the nozzle, I use a bunch of large dung or earthworms, completely covering the entire hook, privet or bubyrya entirely or cut into slices, occasionally chicken offal. Bites on the worm happen more often, but larger specimens are caught on the privet and bubyr.

I put live bait through the lower lip into the upper one. If there is no gudgeon or ruff, then I take a small perch, roach, crucian carp, silver bream (Kalinovets). You can cut from the same Kalinovets or from the white-eyed. By the way, it is best to bite on a piece of fish with a tail. Casting is done at a distance of up to 1020 m, as the burbot goes aground at night to feed. Burbot often bites very carefully, the bell only tinkles a little or suddenly sags smoothly on the line. So the bell must be selected especially sensitive and sonorous, so that there is at least one short but audible ring and the fisherman can react in time. Be sure to illuminate the bell from time to time with a headlamp. If I notice that the line with the bell has suddenly sagged, I hook it. The most frequent bites usually occur immediately after dusk and in the morning about an hour before dawn. It is best to pull this fish out of the water with a landing net, since it is not so easy to hold a slippery burbot in your hands.

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With the onset of more severe frosts or if I just don’t want to fish in the cold night, I switch to “supplies”. The supply is a small reel with one elongated and pointed end that sticks into the bottom near the shore. Be sure to hide the reel in the water from inquisitive nocturnal passers-by, who would otherwise help you get rid of it along with your catch. Sometimes a pike perch or large perch comes across for deliveries, while the pike usually bites off the leash. The body of the burbot is covered with small, tightly-fitting scales, which, when cleaning, I remove along with the skin. The burbot is very good in the ear, especially when you put it in the pot along with the bobbins. The yushka turns out to be thick, rich, yellowish. Words cannot convey the taste – you must definitely try! Delicious fish pies are obtained from mentug – the fish is fatty and without small bones. But, of course, a special delicacy is lamb’s liver. As old fishermen say, who have caught a lot over the years, a burbot is a liver, and a burbot without a liver is not a burbot!

Gennady KONSTANTINOV