Today was yet another day of Salmon and Lingcod fishing. It was yet another day where salmon fishing was slow but fishing for Lingcod and Rockfish was fantastic. There were a few reports of Salmon caught, but most of the reports that we heard on the radio were of Wild Chinook that were released. We spent the morning fishing along the beach just south of the South Jetty at Westport, then we worked our way north. Three hours of trolling divers yielded two hooked Salmon, neither fish made it to the boat. So we picked up the gear and headed out to target Lingcod.
The Lingcod were very hungry today. As we drifted, we hooked Lingcod at a fairly fast pace. There were a few we kept that were just over two feet long, and a few that were fairly large. At the end of our first drift, I pitched a swimbait right up against an exposed rock and hooked the perfect sized live bait, a small Kelp Greenling. I rigged it on our backup rod, hopped up to the bow and dropped it down. As soon as I felt the tap-tap of the weight hit the bottom, the rod viciously doubled over. Grabbed by a Lingcod! I looked to the left, next to me was Gary… he had just landed a Ling. I looked back to the other side, there was Larry by the cabin… he hadn’t had a chance to tug on one yet. So I rounded to bow, all the while keeping tension on the Lingcod, but by the time I got over to Larry to hand the rod off, the fish was up and ready to be scooped. There it was, just two feet from the surface, it was a beautiful Blue Lingcod, gripping the back half of that small Greenling, swimming with a serpentine motion, oblivious to our motive. Net! I need a net over here! Ian scooped it and we had ourselves another keeper. We snapped a few photos, you know… for the archives, and threw it in the fish box. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t get it over to Larry fast enough, but at least we had one for him to take home. My next goal was to get him on a nice Lingcod.
We fished throughout the noon hour, and our fish box was steadily filling up with bottomfish. Gary caught a beautiful Blue Cabezon, with coloring unlike any I’ve ever seen. We caught a bunch of Black Rockfish, a smallish Cabezon, some other Greenling, and a few other Lingcod.
Black Rockfish were easy to come by. We fished an area that definitely had quite a few of them around. We positioned just off of a hump that gradually came up to an exposed wash rock. At the beginning of each drift, we had sporadic bursts of action, some Lingcod, some Rockfish. At the end of each drift as we neared the wash rock, we would get into a decent Black Rockfish bite.
Ian hollered at me, “Look what I’ve got!” He smiled and held up a tiny Black Rockfish. Live bait! I headed back to the bow to join Larry, and dropped it down. He took the rod, eager to experience a live bait grab. We drifted and fished, the live bait rig didn’t produce. Larry was focused, he was ready. I noticed that everyone else, whom were fishing with swimbait/shrimp fly setups, was catching fish. I asked Larry if he wanted to switch, since the live bait had not produced, and he obliged. Not more than 60 seconds after we switched, I lifted into a Monster Lingcod.
The Ling forced the rod tip downward toward the water, an obvious beast. Larry gasped. I lifted into it, reeled steadily and handed the rod off. It was a struggle for me, then Larry, to manage such a beast. It definitely had the advantage. He could lift it about ten feet, slowly and steadily bringing it up, then it would rocket back to the seafloor.
After about five minutes of back and forth the rod went limp, Larry and I shared a sigh of disappointment. He reeled up to find that the Ling had sawed through the leader. Fifty pound monofilament leader. It was a beast. The beast won the battle.
While I don’t ever refer to myself as an expert in anything, working on a charter boat in Alaska, and having fished religiously for Lingcod in Washington for the past dozen years, I have seen some big fish. My personal best is 62 pounds (weighed on an official scale). While I don’t think this fish would’ve beaten that record, it definitely had more mass, more viciousness, and more fight than a 44 inch fish we released in Puget Sound a few weeks ago.
Regardless of any speculation, it was a nice fish.
Larry ended up getting a keeper Lingcod later that day so all was right with the world and our day on the water was filled with great moments.