The only freshwater fish related to the saltwater cod family, eel pout is said to taste like lobster when prepared correctly. Correctly in Finland is with the fish discarded and the cavier served on a silver platter.
Burbot. Ling. They go by many names, but on Leech Lake near Walker, Minnesota, the locals call them eel pout, a species normally despised by anglers. And every February since 1980, folks have come from far and wide to pay homage to this slithering bottom-dweller. Part ice-fishing competition, part party, part reason to act up, and part reason to swim in the frigid waters of Leech Lake, the Eel Pout festival draws thousands onto the ice for a Woodstock-esque celebration. Check out these photos from this year’s event. Rick Adair
The only freshwater fish related to the saltwater cod family, eel pout is said to taste like lobster when prepared correctly. Correctly in Finland is with the fish discarded and the cavier served on a silver platter. Rick Adair
Correctly at the Eel Pout Festival is deep fried. Here, festival-goers line up for eel pout nuggets. Nothing makes the cold air steamy like a fresh, greasy batch of these morsels. Rick Adair
Anglers find all sorts of creative ways to get around the ice. This is one of many custom vehicles you might see parked next to an ice house. Rick Adair
This is just one way to make your ice house stand out. Rick Adair
Aside from fishing, the Eel Pout Festival has come to include the Polar Plunge. Last year, 147 jumpers, including members of the local Polar Plunge Team, had the guts to get wet. The festival welcomes jumpers of all races, genders, sizes, and shapes. Rick Adair
In the relative warmth of the festival tents, all sorts of fun activities take place. For example, a swimwear fashion show and dance routine presented by the Bikini Ice FIshing Team is a crowd-pleaser. Rick Adair
Half the fun of the festival comes from getting rowdy and attracting attention. Why else would you bring an inflatable ape onto the ice? Rick Adair
And then there are the Coors Light girls, posed here perched above some adoring fans. Rick Adair
… and enjoying a little ice bowling. Rick Adair
The festival even receives a visit from the world record-holding ice-hole driller, Sean Spraungel, who can drill three holes in the ice in 8 seconds. Rick Adair
Some visitors focus on hooking the festival’s namesake. But most are there to party. Only 20 percent of visitors actually come to fish. Rick Adair
These ice cruisers navigate the temporary intersection of “Eel Pout” and “Burbot,” all enroute to different parts of the lake, either to grab fresh nuggets, drill a fresh hole, or find the next ice-house party. Rick Adair
For more information on Walker, Minnesota’s annual Eel Pout Festival, visit
eelpoutfestival.com. You can find out how to compete for the biggest fish, or the wackiest plunge into frigid Leech Lake waters.