May 1 Lingcod

Yesterday was the first of May, which signals the beginning of 45 glorious days of fishing for Lingcod in Puget Sound. Most of you will agree that during this time of year, we all have way too much we need to accomplish and not enough hours in the day. Home and garden projects, family time, work, etcetera. On top of the normal day-to-day business, as soon as the weather gets nice we are also slammed with a half dozen great fishing opportunities (and if you are like me, it’s all about trying to figure out where you want to spend those precious hours on the water). While I am fortunate to get the chance to fish around the state, I love fishing for Lingcod so close to home. Finding a way to get out for opening day was a must!

I scrambled last week to see if there was anyone still looking for a crew on opening day. The first person that came to mind was my buddy Eddy, since we have tried to get out fishing many times through the years, unfortunately our schedules never really aligned… but we both had a mid-day window to hit the water for a few hours… so I was stoked! My friends Ian & Monica were available to join in on the fun as well. With a few minor set-backs in the morning (don’t ask), we pushed the meeting time to noon and launched Eddy’s Grady White at the Edmonds Sling.

The weather was perfect, one of those much appreciated warm windless days on the Sound. We zipped over to Kingston to grab a dozen sand dabs, jigging white crappie jigs smeared with a little scent. Once we filled the livewell with our Lingcod bait, we zipped over to Possession Bar. There are plenty of great places to fish for Lingcod throughout Puget Sound, but the location and sheer size of Possession makes it an easy target for folks looking to catch fish without travelling great distances. We fished for about two hours, witnessed a few folks around us hooking fish (including one of Eddy’s friends that landed a sea-monster sized Ling in the 30 pound class which he carefully released). Not even a fish hooked yet… It Was A Good Day.

Tides for the first day of Lingcod fishing weren’t ideal. We had a huge tidal swing with a low slack midday, but the vast numbers of Lingcod, unharrassed but fishermen so far this year more than made up for that. We found a good stretch of structure near the Westside of the Bar and made about a dozen drifts. With ripping currents, we quickly upgraded our weights to 10 ounces, and got the drift pretty dialed in. We averaged about 1 grab per two drifts, so fishing wasn’t that hot for us. I think that the ripping currents were causing us to drift a bit too fast.

About an hour into fishing, we picked up the gear to run back to the top of the drift and whoosh… somehow the net that was nested along the inside of the rail caught air and was launched overboard. After a few choice adult words, we collected our thoughts and made another drift. It wasn’t the cost of replacing the net that was a big deal, but being without a net makes for an interesting time when fishing Lingcod with live bait. Not only must barbless hooks be used in Puget Sound, but when fishing with live bait, Lings will often latch onto the bait and not actually get hooked. I’ve seen it happen many times before where a Lingcod will spit the bait the second its head is pulled above the waterline, either just prior to or just after being netted.

Well, Ian’s rod loaded over and after a short battle and a few returns to the bottom, he carefully reeled up the Ling. Luckily for us, our first Lingcod of the day was pretty docile once it got to the surface. I carefully assessed where the hooks were in relation to the Ling’s mouth (no one wants a hook buried in their hand), and slid my hand up under the gill plate. Lingcod have a piece of cartilage on the inside of the gill plate that acts almost as a natural handle, so once you’ve got your hand in there, a strong grip is all a guy needs to lift the fish out of the water.

Beware that Lingcod have razor sharp teeth and gill rakers as well as pointed spines built into the front dorsal fin, so these creatures are not safe to handle. For me, after years of handling Lingcod on the Westport Jetty, I feel confident that I can handle most average sized Lings. Anyways, we got the Ling in the boat, and it measured 35.5” YEAH! High-fives, pics, back to fishing. We made two more drifts, hooked one other Lingcod, and called it a day. I would imagine that even the most popular Lingcod spots will stay productive for the next several weeks, but later in the season we all have to get creative to find spots that haven’t been hammered with fishing pressure. Best of luck everyone!

Another great fishing day in the books! I hope everyone that made it out had a great time.