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Burbot: It’s the newest Illinois record fish

Luc van Brenk’s first burbot became the latest Illinois record fish.

Luc van Brenk caught the first Illinois-record burbot in 2020 on Nov. 18. Photo provided by Park Bait
Luc van Brenk caught the Illinois-record burbot.
Provided by Park Bait

If you’re going to catch your first burbot, do what Luc van Brenk did. Make it a state record.

He was perch fishing with Thomas Krysciak Wednesday around Diversey Harbor without much luck, then, “The rod doubled over. I didn’t even feel it and it went straight down.”

He was using a perch rig with a wax worm.

“Tommy didn’t know what the hell was going on,” said van Brenk, 24, of Park Ridge. “He thought I had a steelhead, but it was dead weight. Really, it was just me pulling dead weight up from the bottom. When it got up, it went back down.”

Krysciak netted the fish. That made the third Illinois-record he netted on Lake Michigan, which is a record in its own right as far as I know. He netted both the burbot and whitefish, then state records, that Ken Maggiore caught March 22, 2017 at Montrose Harbor. Maggiore was first to catch two Illinois records in one day.

“I can’t catch state records, but I sure can net them,” Krysciak said. “First [van Brenk] thought he had a bag on, then when it got to the wall, it started to go.

“I said earlier, `If we get a burbot, we are going to eat it.’ It’s poor man’s lobster. Sure as ---- he did it. I called it, I guess. Helluva way to catch his first burbot.”

Even beyond poor man’s lobster, burbot have a multitude of names, including lawyer, eelpout, lingcod and mud shark.

Figures that Krysciak would be heading back to work that night at Fortune Fish & Gourmet after netting yet another state record fish.

A long view of Luc van Brenk’s Illinois-record burbot after being weighed at Park Bait. Photo provided by Park Bait
A long view of Luc van Brenk’s Illinois-record burbot after being weighed at Park Bait.
Provided by Park Bait

Before that, they took the burbot to Park Bait at Montrose Harbor to weigh it.

After van Brenk put it on the certified scale, Stacey Greene read it and told they got it. The burbot, 32 1/2 inches long with a girth of 15 1/2 inches, weighed 9.68 pounds, besting the existing record (9 pounds, 5.6 ounces) that Freddie Ray Prebianca caught Dec. 9, 2018 while fishing/hunting out of North Point Marina.

“They jumped in each other’s arms, it was like a cartoon,” Greene said. “They told me they were going back fishing and get another one.”

When I caught up to van Brenk and Krysciak, they were back fishing but had only caught some small perch.

Lake Michigan program manager Vic Santucci met them at Park Bait Wednesday afternoon to certify the record.

Luc van Brenk’s Illinois-record burbot being weighed at Park Bait. Photo provided by Park Bait
Luc van Brenk’s Illinois-record burbot being weighed at Park Bait.
Provided by Park Bait