Resembling a cross between an eel and a catfish

Beneath the Surface: The mystery of the dead burbot in Lake Windermere

Burbot, also known as Ling Cod, are the only species of freshwater cod.

You never know what you might see out in Lake Windermere if you take the time to look beneath the surface. On July 8th, some of what is usually “beneath the surface” came to the surface, getting us to question what might be happening in this watery environment.

During the week of July 7th while the Lake Windermere Ambassadors staff and volunteer were taking water samples at the south end of the lake, we made a startling discovery.  There was a dead fish floating on the surface of the water — not just any fish, but a burbot, a species that has experienced significant declines in Lake Windermere. Read on to learn more about the burbot of Lake Windermere and what might have happened to this particular fellow.

Burbot, also known as Ling Cod, are the only species of freshwater cod. They make their home in cold lakes throughout northern North America, Europe and Asia. As fish go, they are fairly odd-looking. They look like a cross between an eel and a catfish.

Lake Windermere may be experiencing conditions that are less than ideal for burbot. A report by Paragamian and others (2000) reported significant declines in this fish in the Columbia River system, including Lake Windermere. In a 2007 survey of Lake Windermere, none were found and it was feared they were gone for good. As a more recent indication of the numbers of burbot, a local fisherman said: “There are ling in Lake Windermere, but not as many as there used to be. Few, but they do exist here.”

As reported in the 2008 report on fish and wildlife in Lake Windermere, temperature is likely a cause. Burbot prefer temperatures that are cooler than Lake Windermere, which has been getting warmer in the summer. Competition from invasive species like bass and northern pike minnows may also have sent burbot on the decline. B.C. fishing regulations restrict this fishery to “catch and release only” to protect the numbers that are left.

What happened with the fish we saw?

It is thought that the burbot move out of Lake Windermere into colder waters for the summer and come back to spawn during the winter. So why did we see one and why was it dead?

There are a few possible explanations. The fish may not have died in the location that we found it. The burbot could have been living in the Columbia Wetlands upstream, died, then floated into the lake. It may have simply died of old age. Or it could have mistakenly come into the lake where it met waters that were too warm, which can cause stress and disease.

We will never know the exact cause of that one burbot’s death, but we do know some of the challenges burbot face in our area: competition from non-native species like Largemouth Bass, habitat destruction, and raised water temperatures in summer.

Ella Swan is the Lake Windermere Ambassadors’ Summer Student. She can be reached by phone at 250- 341-6898 or by email at intern@lakeambassadors.ca.

Just Posted

The end of an Echo

Invermere Valley Echo shuts down operations in Columbia Valley

Creating a new narrative for Canal Flats

Economic development consultant hired, lists vision for next 90 days

UPDATE: Crews battle as wildfires rage in B.C. Interior

Crews brace for another day on B.C. firelines as no let up is likely

VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers

Wildfires continue to engulf regions of B.C.’s forests and communities.

VIDEO: More than 180 wildfires burning across B.C.

Firefighters from other provinces called in to assist

DTSS Grad March 2017

DTSS Grad March 2017

59 cats seized in Chase

59 neglected and injured cats were seized from a property in Chase

Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell dead at age 52

The singer/songwriter passed away early Thursday morning in Detroit

Paying tribute to a primeval passage

Uninterrupted celebrates the Adams River sockeye run in an extraordinary way.

UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds

In the past, the music festival located in Pemberton drew large crowds last year of 180,000 fans

Medical wait times cost B.C. patients $2,300 each

New Fraser Institute report places B.C. at second worst in costs associated with long wait times

UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert

Witnesses reported hearing two loud bangs coming from near the arena’s bars at about 10:35 p.m.

One in three Canadian high school students have rode with drinking drivers, study reveals

Nearly one in five rode with a driver who’d been smoking pot

Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records

A lower court judge ruled to destroy the stories after 15 years unless consent is given to preserve

Most Read