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Is the burbot extinct in UK?

Neil Kirk

Senior Member
I was listening to Radio 4 this morning and they had a piece called Natural Histories about the burbot.


They said it is common in mainland europe and used to be common in UK but has been extinct in the UK since 1969,

Is it extinct? I seem to recall that the Ousemeister fish-in has a prize if anyone catches one.

Anyone caught one in UK post 1969? Anyone got a photo? How big are they

Neil
 

Terry Simner

Senior Member
As far as I know they're still not present in UK waters, but if they were 'the authorities' would quite possibly keep quiet about the fact until the species is well established.
BTW .. in the mid 70's there was a local (Midlands) weekly phone-in radio show about fishing. One week it was about pike, and the best baits to catch them with. I rang in and said I used burbot as live and deadbaits, and found them to be highly productive. The radio presenter (supposedly a knowledgeable and avid fisherman) said he'd never seen them on sale, but he'd definitely look out for them. It went over his, and all the listeners', heads 🤪:eek:🤪
 

Clive Kenyon

Senior Member
They are in decline in many parts of Europe where they were once common. Still plenty in Nth America though.

There have been a couple of attempts to re-introduce burbot into the Trent system where their last stronghold was. But, as the reasons for their decline have not yet been addressed the River Authority refused permission for the fish that had been brought in from Central Europe to be released. They were so common in East Anglia at one time that they were fed to pigs and in the States a fur farmer discovered that when he fed his caged foxes burbot their coats became more lustrous. So now it is used widely as a feedstuff for the fur trade.

One of the mysteries about the UK burbot is that they were not found to have existed in the Thames system according to Marston's survey yet in the Ice Age the Thames was connected to the river systems in the UK and Europe where burbot were historically found.

There are two cased specimens on display at a stately home somewhere in the Midlands.
 

Gavin Hoe-Richardson

Senior Member
Hi Neil, the burbot thing at the Ousemeister is in jest.

From what I recall the last known stronghold was the lower reaches of the Yorkshire Derwent. It hadn't been tidal for many years so they probably died out naturally. I do recall catching flounder as far up as the Stamford Bridge weirpool around 30 years ago. There were murmurings of opening the gates at the Ouse to allow migratory fish back into the Derwent but don't know if it still happens. Certainly salmon were seen going over the weir at Stamford Bridge around three years ago.
 

Nick Clark

Senior Member
Typical entry from above Return to the river Pinn, April 2015....

“ I just cannot believe how time passes at this joyous time of year. British Summer Time, blossom, bees, and burbot chasing nymphs.

The Pinn is in splendid condition and so are the Curgudgeons, equally roused from the tedium of hibernation.

There is a total feeling of expectation, such a wonder, which never fails to surprise and fulfill.

As the days lengthen and the temperatures rise may we give thanks for life and the joy of living and fishing.

As ever,

Hugo “
 

Terry Simner

Senior Member
In memory of dear Hugo
Erratum ... "ye shalt find......"
 

Clive Kenyon

Senior Member
The headline is not supported by the story. It makes it appear that the reintroduction is certain whereby when you read the full article they aren't even close. Given that Natural England opposed the proposed Trent re-stocking I am not that confident that they would agree to stocking Norfolk rivers. The programs carried out in Belgium and Holland have not been as successful as they hoped and the natural range of burbot in the eastern side of France is shrinking.

The whole concept of rewilding as they call it is sometimes more to do with someone grabbing headlines to further their careers than common sense. Since the burbot left the Trent system and East Anglian rivers there have been new arrivals in the shape of zander and wels catfish, the latter possibly being a much more able competitor to the indigenous burbot. In France there has been an influx of alien species including gobies and American catfish that would compete with burbot. Also, some scientists blame rising water temperatures for the demise of burbot and that isn't likely to change any time soon.

I can't see me buying a burbot rod in the near future.
 

Mike Hodgkiss

Senior Member
Hi Neil, the burbot thing at the Ousemeister is in jest.

From what I recall the last known stronghold was the lower reaches of the Yorkshire Derwent. It hadn't been tidal for many years so they probably died out naturally. I do recall catching flounder as far up as the Stamford Bridge weirpool around 30 years ago. There were murmurings of opening the gates at the Ouse to allow migratory fish back into the Derwent but don't know if it still happens. Certainly salmon were seen going over the weir at Stamford Bridge around three years ago.
I used to live in Elvington very near the Derwent back in the late 70's / early 80's , we regularly caught flounders on ledgered worm, very tasty too . There was an old character called Bill who lived in Elvington all his life , when he was a nipper his mam used to send him down to the river after school to catch the familys tea, he usually ended up catching Burbot or eels . There have been reports of Burbot been caught in the lower Great Ouse and I think the Ribble but nothing with definitive proof . I reckon there still out there ...
 

Mike Webb

Senior Member
The headline is not supported by the story. It makes it appear that the reintroduction is certain whereby when you read the full article they aren't even close. Given that Natural England opposed the proposed Trent re-stocking I am not that confident that they would agree to stocking Norfolk rivers. The programs carried out in Belgium and Holland have not been as successful as they hoped and the natural range of burbot in the eastern side of France is shrinking.

The whole concept of rewilding as they call it is sometimes more to do with someone grabbing headlines to further their careers than common sense. Since the burbot left the Trent system and East Anglian rivers there have been new arrivals in the shape of zander and wels catfish, the latter possibly being a much more able competitor to the indigenous burbot. In France there has been an influx of alien species including gobies and American catfish that would compete with burbot. Also, some scientists blame rising water temperatures for the demise of burbot and that isn't likely to change any time soon.

I can't see me buying a burbot rod in the near future.
Yes I agree with you. It's like the proposed golden Eagle reintroduction to Wales - fanfared by ERW and then the prospect immediately all but squashed by Natural Resources Wales.
 

Clive Kenyon

Senior Member
According to the online editions of the old Fishing Gazette they turned up regularly in angler's catches in the Yorkshire Ouse system in the early 1900's. Fish of 9lb were recorded in match weights.
 

Clive Kenyon

Senior Member
I have managed to fire up the old laptop (Windows 7 version) and found my research on the beloved burbot. Here are a few pieces taken from the pages:

Seems that there was also an attempt to re-introduce burbot in the River Trent in the mid 1990's. An article from the Independent quotes:

Still, Dr Jim Reader, a lecturer in Nottingham University's Department of Life Science, sees something in the ugly creatures that escapes me. He has imported 150 burbot from Moravia in the Czech Republic, and if everything goes to plan, he hopes the fish will breed this winter and that he will eventually be given permission to stock them into the local river Trent. He says: "Man wiped them out through his activities so it would be nice to bring them back."

His plan has not met universal acclaim. Alwyne Wheeler, former keeper of fishes at the Natural History Museum and the foremost authority on fish in Britain, says:

"It's a half-baked scheme and a total waste of time and money. British burbot became extinct because our climate got warmer. You might as well bring back beavers, wolves and reindeer too."

The EA denied permission to release the Czech' burbot in the Trent.
Records suggest the burbot held on gamely in the Yorkshire river system of the Esk, Seven and Rye but 18th century writer William Frederick Martyn describes a similar species that Linneaus classed as blenny vivparous or European Eel-Pout that was very widespread in the River Esk and thus casts doubt on the 1996 Whitby capture, although the Ryedale Examiner places an outside bet on the Yorkshire Derwent as being as likely place as any to locate any survivors. This is supported by scientific evidence suggesting that there was a population in the Derwent between the Ouse confluence and Sutton-on-Derwent until the tidal barrier was erected in the mid-1970's,

When Sir Herbert Maxwell published his book British Fresh-Water Fishes in or around 1910 he questioned the burbot's range:

But in England it is so very local as to suggest some
curious speculation. How comes it that a robust and prolific
fish which is at home in the Trent is absent from the Thames,
which geologists hold to be the older river, once a tributary of
the Rhine, where burbots abound ?
If you want to see a burbot 'in the flesh' there are two cased specimens at Wollarton Hall in Nottinghamshire that were caught in the River Trent in the 1920's.
 

Josh Porteous-Webster

Active Member
Couple of sightings from 2010 in the AT - https://www.anglingtimes.co.uk/fishing-news/2010/extinct-burbot-spotted-in-river-eden-and-great-ouse

As the EA's first thought when they get any reports is," lets net the whole area", personally, I don't think I'd be too quick to report any catches/sightings, to them anyway. But that's just me.
My Dad swears that a few burbot were caught on matches on the Yorkshire derwent back in the 80s/90s, he was match organiser at the time and he remembers having to research what a particularly ugly fish was, that was presumed to be some type of catfish.
 

Clive Kenyon

Senior Member
I wouldn't be surprised if the sightings were wels catfish.
 

Stephen Crowhurst

Senior Member
College was a few years back so don’t quote me but iirc to be classified as extinct doesn’t necessarily mean there’s none left, it means the population is a mass or density that is irrecoverable. For example if there were two crocs left in two separate lakes separated by 15 miles, they have no chance to breed and are therefore scientifically speaking, extinct.

It wouldn’t surprise me if there are isolated pockets tucked away, literally hand fulls of fish but with a lifespan of about 15 years they would need to be breeding to be clinging on since those last reintroduction attempts. So if your looking for evidence of them it will likely be somewhere that a natural and neglected group are clinging on.

There are miles and miles of waterways in this country that could be harbouring all sorts. There’s rumours of Stugeon in the D.Stour, I always assumed the rumours of terrapins were just that till I saw one or two with my own eyes.
 
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