RIVERHURST, SASKATCHEWAN, Canada You get the feeling that Sean and Adam Konrad have the International Game Fish Association records division on their speed dial.
The Canadian identical twins who have repeatedly re-written the IGFA world and line-class record book for rainbow trout in the last three years have added another all-tackle world mark to their resume: burbot.
On March 27, Sean Konrad landed a 25.2-pound Lota lota, a freshwater relative of the common ling, on Lake Diefenbaker, the 106,000-acre reservoir in southwest Saskatchewan where he and his twin the self-proclaimed "Fishing Geeks" have established nearly a dozen IGFA records since 2007.
Konrad already held the IGFA's recognized all-tackle burbot record with a 19.1-pounder he caught in March of 2008, but his new 25.2-pounder now surpasses a 22.8-pound burbot caught in 2004 on Lake Athapapuskow in neighboring Manitoba, a fish that had been recognized by the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as the largest member of the species caught on a hook and line.
"We really didn't consider our 19.1-pound IGFA record to be a true world record anyway, so, we just kept looking for this fish," Sean Konrad said.
Konrad obliterated the IGFA all-tackle record for trout last September when he pulled a 48-pound rainbow out of Diefenbaker, a fish that eclipsed his brother's 43-pound, 10-ounce all-tackle record established in 2007. His burbot, which measured 41 inches with a 24-inch girth, was likely an egg-laden female in pre-spawn, which causes the species to go on an aggressive late-winter feeding binge.
"They'll eat anything that moves when they're in a feeding mode," Konrad said. "All you really have to do is get bait in front of their face. If you can find a place with a lot of baitfish around and the burbot are all congregated and on the feed, it's a fun fishery. We'll catch 10 to 20 fish a night when they're feeding."
Connecting with the record fish
The Konrads and a friend fished Diefenbaker for most of the night before Sean's record hookup, catching three fish to 10 pounds before calling it quits at 2 a.m. and grabbing a nap in their trucks. They returned to the same area at 7 the next morning, and Konrad soaked a whole herring on the same Shimano Clarus rod and Abu-Garcia Cardinal reel that he caught his 48-pound rainbow on.
It didn't take long for the first bite, which turned out to be a big one.
"Adam and I always joke about setting the hook on a fish that feels like it's the bottom well, that's what this fish felt like," Konrad said. "The first 10 to 20 seconds felt like I was snagged. It finally came up a little bit, went back down, and then really started to take line.
"When it passed underneath the boat and I finally got a glimpse of it, I knew I was into a big burbot. When we finally managed to land the beast, we knew by the girth we had a chance for the 22-pound mark."
The fish punched out at 25.2 on an IGFA-certified Chatillion scale. Konrad now awaits the IGFA's final certification of the world record, but has the big burbot frozen in the round until it's official.
The Geeks' burbot history
The Konrad brothers have fished Lake Diefenbaker for burbot since they were children, competing with their dad in ice-fishing derbies when the species was widely regarded as a trash fish.
"No one knew how to clean and cook them, so they'd just throw them on the ice," Konrad said. "My dad really liked the way they tasted, so we'd always try to target them in the winter. DNR officers would go around and hand out pamphlets to show how to clean and fillet them, and people started to appreciate them for their meat. It's called 'poor man's lobster' for a reason."
The Konrads had hooked burbot up to 15 pounds in previous winters, but local tackle-shop chatter in the past three years hinted that even bigger Lota lota lurked. Local divers had reported seeing monster-sized burbot, and internet chat threads about the "Monster of Diefenbaker" fueled the possibility that a world-record fish lived in this massive impoundment of the South Saskatchewan and Qu'Appelle Rivers.
"We were hearing reports of giant that the spear fishermen would see, but they never get close enough to get it," Konrad said. "There was supposedly this huge burbot down there that was 10 times the size of a normal fish, but I thought we ended all that talk when I caught the 19-pounder.
"I figured maybe that was the fish everybody was seeing, but some guys went down afterwards and said 'Nope, we saw it again', so I guess we've been fishing for this (25-pounder) for three years. I think we finally caught the monster fish everybody's talking about."
Burbot are a freshwater member of the gadiform family (which includes most common codfish), and are sometimes mistakenly referred to as "eelpout." They're most prevalent above the 40th Parallel in North America and Europe and are a popular gamefish in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Diefenbaker is one of the most productive burbot fisheries in Saskatchewan.