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Using a Cusk Line

By John A. Viar, Fisheries Biologist


Freshwater cusk (burbot) may be taken through the ice with a cusk fishing device or "cusk line." The picture below shows one kind of cusk line -- but a cusk line can be as simple as line wrapped on a stick, so long as the line is not free-running and all other legalities are addressed.


In addition to the normal number of lines allowed (see current Fishing Digest), up to 6 cusk fishing lines may also be used. Any species other than cusk caught on a cusk line must be released immediately by cutting the line without removing the fish from the water. Cusk fishing devices may be set and left unattended, except once during each 24-hour period, the bait end of the line must be inspected. “Bobbing,” “jigging,” or movement of the bait to attract fish is prohibited.



Cusk fishing device


What do you need to know about using a cusk line?

  • a) by law, name and address must be written on each cusk line
  • b) long carriage bolts or other “pegs” work well for holding line; “cap” prevents line from sliding off -- spacing bolts one foot apart quickly tells you the depth, and makes for easy/quick winding (vs. wrapping around stick)
  • c) dacron/squidding line 25+ lbs. test handles well in cold weather and is plenty strong enough to hold the largest cusk
  • d) you may want to label amount of line on each rig; nothing is worse than trying a deep set only to realize you don’t have quite enough line (sinker must rest on bottom by law) -- then you have to wind it back up and head shallower!
  • e) reflective tape makes for easy location at night; also warns snowmobiles
  • f) use a stout, large (3/0 or bigger) hook (bass plastic bait hooks are great); cusk have huge mouths and will completely swallow the bait; a large hook is easier to remove and necessary for large bait
  • g) try affixing a small bell or other attractor with large bait; as big bait struggles against the weight, the bell rings and bounces off the rocks, which helps cusk locate the bait in the darkness (vibrations are detected with their lateral line)
  • h) one-ounce sinker or heavier required by law (if sinker is 1 oz., must be lead-free)
  • i) no more than six inches from sinker to hook as required by law; wire leaders can help prevent break-offs, especially in very rocky areas – by law, sinker must rest on bottom


The use of cusk fishing devices is restricted to the following waters: First Connecticut Lake (Pittsburg), Second Connecticut Lake (Pittsburg), Third Connecticut Lake (Pittsburg), Lake Francis (Pittsburg), Lovell Lake (Wakefield), Merrymeeting Lake (New Durham), Newfound Lake (Bristol, Alexandria, Bridgewater, Hebron), Ossipee Lake (Freedom/Ossipee), Silver Lake (Madison), Big Squam Lake (Holderness, Center Harbor, Sandwich, Moultonboro), Little Squam Lake (Holderness, Ashland), South Pond (Stark), Sunapee Lake (Newbury, New London, Sunapee), Waukewan Lake (Meredith), Wentworth Lake (Wolfboro), Lake Winnipesaukee (Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford, Laconia, Meredith, Moultonboro, Tuftonboro, Wolfeboro), and Winnisquam Lake (Belmont, Sanbornton, Laconia, Tilton, Meredith).