Lingcod is one of the most prized fish, native to the North American coast, for the thrill of the game, but also for its taste. Although it’s not closely related to ling, or cod, lingcod has earned its name due to quite a resemblance to both these fish. Lingcod fishing has its specifics. So, if you want to put this fish on your trophy list, here are a few things to know about it.
Lingcod – Habitat and Habits
Lingcod are popular in the North American west coast waters, widespread from Shumagin Islands of the Alaskan Gulf, and down to Baja California, with a peak concentration just off the coast of British Columbia. They are benthic fish, and are often a bycatch for anglers who target other bottom-feeding fish, such as halibut.
They prefer rocky bottoms, however, depending on the stage of their life, lingcod can be found in different habitats, and at different depths. For example, the juvenile lingcod are usually found in eelgrass beds or kelp beds, and as they grow, they move to areas with sandy bottoms. Adult lingcod prefer reef and rocky areas with structure and tend to live a territorial life. Also, strong tidal currents seem to be one of the habitat preferences of lingcod.
Although most anglers who target lingcod look for them in places offshore, with depths up to 350 ft., decent ones can still be caught in relatively shallow waters, between 25-30 ft.
Fishing Methods for Lingcod
Lingcod are aggressive feeders and that’s one of the main reasons jigging, or fishing with various lures can produce excellent results. Still fishing and down-dropping with cut or live bait are, however, the most used fishing methods for this particular fish.
In case you choose to drift while fishing for lingcod, it’s best to find a place where the current will take you from shallow to deeper water and not the other way around. Also, since lingcod seem to prefer certain structure types in an area, it’s a very good idea to mark a waypoint on your chartplotter wherever you catch one. Each spot where you catch one, has a good chance to be a lingcod lair, and provides you with one, two, or more fish in the future.
Bait and Lures for Lingcod
Lingcod are aggressive predators and don’t shy away from big prey. In fact, due to their territorial nature, they sometimes attack fish just as big as they are, so you may be surprised that you may catch one not much bigger than the lure itself. Therefore don’t be afraid to use bigger lures. In terms of lures, large, shiny, silver jigs are always a good call. They don’t need to be extra fancy, and they don’t require a lot of action, just bounce them near the bottom. Diamond jigs or Norwegian Cod jigs (between 12-20oz) are great choices, but you can also go with some squid or octopus imitation jigs.
When it comes to natural baits, large live mackerel is one of the best choices an angler can make. Sardines, sand dabs, shrimp and squid are also great baits to use.
Tackle for Lingcod
Rods. Depending on the size of the fish you’re targeting, and the weight of the lure (or sinker), different rods may be required. For example, if you’re going for deep, offshore waters, it’s best to choose a “beefy” rod, between 5’6″ – 6’6″. An EatMyTackle 100-120 lbs rod or a OKIAYA COMPOSIT 80-130LB Tuna Tango are two good choices.
If you’re going for shallower waters, and targeting smaller fish, a medium or medium-rod can also do.
Reels. Although spinning reels can do just fine, while fishing for lingcod, it’s best to opt for a conventional reel, because they typically offer a better line capacity. An Okuma Classic Levelwind Reel, or Penn General Purpose Level Wind Reel are excellent choices.
Line. Braided is hands-down, the best choice in terms of line, for lingcod. That’s because it doesn’t stretch and you have a great feel of the bait / lure when fishing. Since for any bottom-feeding fish, it’s best to start from 30lb. pound test, that should also be the minimum limit for lingcod.
Leader and rigs. Lingcod do have teeth, therefore wire leader is never a bad choice. However, 40-60 lb. test mono also works just fine. When it comes to rigs, there’s a wide variety to choose from, depending on the bait used. Live bait rigs, herring rigs, monster rigs, Carolina rig versions, or spider rings. No matter what rig you use, make sure your bait remains live and fresh for as long as possible.
Hooks. Even though many lures come with treble hooks attached, these are not a necessity for lingcod. In fact, by using treble hooks, you increase the chances of your lure or bait snagging on something, which may result in the loss of terminal tackle or lure. 5/0 – 7/0 J-hooks for live mackerel, or other fish should do. However, other baits such as shrimp call for circle hooks.
Photo courtesy to Ratha Grimes / source: flickr.