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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Burbot - Lota lota
Other Names:  Ling

Potential Species of Concern

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4

Agency Status


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General Description
The burbot is easily recognized by its single chin barbel. It is native to most of Canada and the northern United States and is found in all three major river drainages in Montana. Burbot, also known as ling, are usually found in larger streams and cold, deep lakes and reservoirs. They are peculiar in that they spawn during winter, under the ice. They are also largely nocturnal and have an enthusiastic following among fishermen. Burbot are voracious predators and opportunistic feeders. Like other codfish, burbot have livers which contain oils high in vitamins A and D. Despite their unconventional appearance, fishermen rate burbot tops for table fare.

Diagnostic Characteristics
The skin of the burbot appears smooth, but tiny embedded scales are present.

Species Range
Montana Range

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Western Hemisphere Range


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 6499

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Burbot may move upstream to spawn in rivers where deep pools behind dams or diversions attract spawning groups.

Burbot habitat includes large rivers and cold, deep lakes and reservoirs. They spawn in shallow water, usually in rocky areas.

Food Habits
The young feed on various aquatic invertebrates. Adults are very piscivorous.

The lower Yellowstone River is a rearing area for young burbot.

Reproductive Characteristics
The species spawn from January to February in large groups. Eggs are cast over the bottom and hatch April through May. Incubation is for 30 days at 43 degrees F. Burbot are sexually mature in 3 years.

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Citation for data on this website:
Burbot — Lota lota.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from