Lingcod Fishing in Puget Sound
May 1st marks the annual opening of Puget Sound for lingcod, those bottom-dwelling ambush predators found to attack anything that swims…at times. From opening day, Puget Sound lings’ aggressive personality and voracious appetite for anything that swims makes this fishery pretty wild when the bite is on. Here in Pugetropolis, every rock pile, reef and inshore structure can host good fishing for the first days, and as the season progresses the most successful anglers will have to get a little creative to keep the action alive.
About Puget Sound Lingcod
Despite the opinions of some anglers, there truly is a healthy population of lingcod in Puget Sound. Just ask any diver. Much is to be learned from divers about lingcod behavior, they see it first hand. Lingcod key in on structure, and if there is any rock, ledge or dip, chances are there will be a lingcod nearby. Lings will leave structure to find prey, but rarely travel far from home. While many rockfish school in mid-water depths, lingcod truly are a bottom fish, they don’t have a swim-bladder; most often they are seen resting on structure.
Lingcod are extremely aggressive; they will ambush any prey that enters their sight. The real trick is finding area that will hold them. Puget Sound offers many classic areas, large rock piles, artificial reefs and marina breakwaters are usually the most popular areas to target lingcod, early in the season these areas can be very productive but will eventually get fished out. After the first week of the season, start hunting for smaller structure that may not be advertised on charts. Use your electronics to mark structure, and then unleash your arsenal!
Rod selection is important, a 6-7 foot one-piece rod with enough power to jig up to 6 ounces, and quickly pull a lingcod away from their rocky burrows is important. Fishing with a micro braid fishing line is recommended, its thin diameter cuts through any current and has zero stretch and ultra sensitivity; 40 lb to 65 lb micro braid is perfect.
Live bait strategies
Live-baiting lingcod is extremely effective , and flounder are a Lingcod’s favorite meal. Tending to live bait doesn’t require a fancy live well. A 5-gallon bucket or cooler is all one really needs, but adding a cheap aerator will keep flounder or pile-perch more-frisky. There are a few small details with live bait fishing that will give you a huge advantage. Live baiting with a sliding dropper set-up is best, your bait will spin, so use a high quality swivel to avoid line twist. Once a flounder is rigged, it naturally wants to find safety and will head straight for the bottom, running a short leader with a long dropper will keep your bait struggling above the bottom, in easy sight of hungry lings.
With the Puget Sound’s barbless hook regulations, swithing to Circle hooks on the lip hook will keep bait from wiggling off. Let them eat, and remember, when a lingcod grabs your live-bait, it isn’t necessarily hooked very well. Just apply steady cranking pressure, keep the ling’s head completely underwater, and usually they will stay fairly docile, a great net job is pretty important
Jigging is another effective method, and lings love ambushing soft plastics. Berkly Gulp! 6” Grubs are excellent plastics. With the current craze of swimbaits in the bass fishing world, numerous local manufacturers make 4” to 6” swimbaits that will work well. Jigging as close to the structure as possible is key.
The majority of prime lingcod habitat in Puget Sound is found between 40 feet and 70 feet. Lingcod also live in the shallow rocky areas of marina breakwaters, pitching a 1-2 ounce jighead and soft-plastic into there areas can produce some non-stop action in surprisingly shallow water.