Lingcod are one of the Pacific Coast’s most prized saltwater species. They are extremely aggressive ambush predators that will attack and consume fish nearly their own size. Lingcod feature an elongated body with a large head. A lingcod’s mouth is extremely large and filled with razor sharp teeth.
Lingcod will regularly attack Greenling, Rockfish, Flounder and even other Lingcod that have been hooked by bottom fish anglers. It is not uncommon to pull both a hooked Rockfish, and the attached Lingcod all the way to the surface and into the net.
Best Spots for Lingcod
Lingcod are considered a reef fish. This species is attracted to rocky structure such as reefs, rock piles, rocky ledges, and underwater pinnacles. Typically, any rocky area has the potential to host a healthy population of Lingcod, especially if it’s in an area that sees heavy tidal currents.
Lingcod Found in Inshore Areas
In protected waters, such as Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands northward to the Inside Passage, many anglers target Lingcod in relatively shallow water. Currently in Washington State, managers have restricted the depth that can be fished in an effort to protect weak stocks of Rockfish. Rockfish are a very slow growing species, and overharvest has led to sweeping conservation efforts.
Lingcod can be caught in areas less than 25 feet deep. Juvenile Lingcod can be found in great numbers around Kelp Beds, but larger more mature Lingcod lead a more territorial life. While large reefs and rocky areas are easily identified on a nautical chart, in areas that see heavy fishing efforts, finding a small piece of unmapped structure can produce a Lingcod or two.
Lingcod in the Pacific Ocean
Lingcod are found in the Pacific Ocean along the coast all the way from Baja, Mexico to Alaska. The rocky Pacific Coastline offers an endless amount of rocky structure, including many small islands and pinnacles. Offshore fishermen often catch Lingcod while trying to fish for Halibut. A popular deep sea Lingcod fishery off the Washington Coast can bring in the largest Lingcod anywhere in the state. Many of the popular halibut grounds are large underwater humps or ledges near the edge of the Continental Shelf. These rocky areas will host plenty of large Lingcod.
Rod & Reel for Lingcod
Lingcod will grab a lure or bait with extreme voracity. When searching for a perfect Lingcod rod make sure that it is the right size to…
- Handle the weight of your lure or set-up.
- Handle the size of the Lingcod you are targeting
I prefer conventional level-wind fishing reels for most saltwater fishing applications, including Lingcod fishing. Spinning reels will work fine, but usually lack the line capacity that a conventional reel offers.
When fishing in extremely deep water of the Pacific Ocean’s offshore reefs, a sturdy 5’6” Halibut rod will handle the heaviest of weights and the largest Lingcod you can dream up.
When fishing inshore areas such as Canada’s Gulf Islands or Puget Sound, a lighter rod will suffice. Many fishing rod manufacturers are producing ultra-light jigging rods that will handle large weights but lack the clunky heavy feel of a traditional halibut rod.
Line & Leader for Lingcod
I highly recommend Braided Spectra fishing line for any bottom fishing, such as Halibut, Lingcod or Rockfish. Braided lines have many advantages to monofilament lines. Braided lines are ultra-thin. A Spectra line with 80# strength has the same diameter as 20# monofilament. The thinner Spectra lines will cut the current better, allowing you to use lighter weights to reach great depths. Spectra lines also have zero stretch and extremely high sensitivity.
I was fishing in Neah Bay for Halibut one year, and after dropping my 48 oz. square lead down 450 feet, I felt the lead hit bottom and tip over and fall on its side. No monofilament would afford such sensitivity. Regardless of the depth, you will know when you get bit.
While Spectra has many advantages, it has very poor abraision resistance. Lingcod are armed with very sharp teeth, so a heavy durable leader is important. Some folks use wire leader, but I find that a thicker monofilament leader is much easier to work with. I would recommend 40#-60# leader.
Live Bait for Lingcod
Lingcod will rest on the rocky bottom as if they are lifeless, their mottled brown and green skin camouflaging them with their surroundings. As an unsuspecting baitfish swims by, the Lingcod bursts to life, thrusts towards its prey and engulfs it. Lingcod love live bait, because it is part of their normal diet.
Favorite live baits vary by region. In Alaska, trophy Lingcod will incidentally latch on to a hooked 5# Black Rockfish or even 25# Lingcod. Californian anglers use live Anchovies and Mackerel. Washington State anglers bicker over that perfectly palm-sized Sand Dab or Greenling.
There are many ways to rig live baits and they vary based on region and species of bait. One common practice is to keep the live bait as fresh and lively as possible. Small live wells are preferred, but a small bucket will work just fine as long as the water is changed regularly throughout the day.
Not-So-Live Bait for Lingcod
One preferred method is to drift with natural bait. A simple set-up includes a mooching sinker with a heavy leader and double hook using whole Herring. Drifting a whole Herring will allow the angler to cover ground while enticing any Lingcod along the way.
Metal Lingcod Lures
Metal lures are very effective for Lingcod. While more expensive than fishing soft plastics, they can be the top producer. Metal jigs are slender and dense, therefore they sink quickly and get down to the fish. Select the proper size based on the depth fished. A Pline Lazer Minnow metal jig weighing 1 ounce might be enough to fish around the edges of a Kelp bed, but a 24 ounce Norwegian Cod Jig might be what is needed offshore.
Soft Plastic Lingcod Lures
Fishing for Lingcod with soft plastics is extremely popular and extremely productive. Single-tail and double-tail plastic grubs in 4” and 6” are the most common lure to find in any Lingcod anglers tackle box. Thread these on a jighead, drop them to the bottom and “jig” them as you would a metal jig. To jig: lift the rod tip in a popping motion, and allow the jig to flutter downwards as you lower your rod tip.
Swimbaits are also extremely popular. I would recommend purchasing swimbaits that are weightless so that you can select the appropriately weighted jighead. Several varieties are available that have the weight imbedded into the bait, but these typically are too lightweight to get down to Lings in most areas we fish.