There is one apex predator that can survive the most adverse conditions. The mature adults can fit volleyballs in their mouth and their razor sharp teeth look like something that came out of a Blade movie. Wesley Snipes would be jealous. They have razor blades for gill rakers and once something begins its journey down the digestive track of this fish, it doesn’t come back. They are resilient and no other species of fish can find safe harbor when they’re around. They deserve the utmost respect and are the most prolific hunter in the waters off of the west coast of the United States.
Meet Ophiodon elongatus, aka the LINGCOD!
Lingcod are voracious feeders and they will feed given an opportunity. I have caught many lingcod with stomachs chucked full of everything from skates to salmon to dogfish to…fill in the blank. It always surprises me that with a distended stomach, they still find the will to continue feeding. That’s exactly what makes them king of the ground fishery, and you will find them anywhere there is prey and rock structure. Lingcod roam the waters from Alaska to Mexico, from inshore to offshore and everywhere in between.
You can catch lingcod in waters as shallow as 10-feet and as deep as 700-feet. So how do we target these gnarly sea creatures? As mentioned above, there are two main considerations for targeting lingcod: structure and food source. Offshore we often find lingcod over hard pan rock bottom. To locate these spots, start with a chart and map out some rough areas where you think there is rocky structure, then set up a search grid for that area. This is where it pays to have top notch electronics. Using my Raymarine Hybrid Touch e125 and thru hull 1Kw transducer, I scan the bottom watching the bottom composition change as I cover acre after acre of the ocean floor. I’m looking at the thickness of the hardline (thickness of the bottom as it is displayed on the chart plotter) and once I confirm that I am over rocky structure, down goes the hardware in search of lingcod city. Get familiar with your own electronics and learn how to read the bottom.
Speaking of hardware, there are a couple tools of the trade that we use time and time again. One of the jigs I have been really pleased with is the Solvkroken Norwegian Jig. It is a lead jig wrapped with stainless steel plate and has a triangular cross section. Fishing deeper water, you want to go with the 35 oz. jig. They’re not cheap, but they are very effective. You also may want to consider putting this jig under the close supervision of a seasoned angler. With the treble hook on the bottom of the jig, you do not want to be banging the bottom with every jig stroke. Go down to the bottom, reel up 2-3 cranks and start working the jig. Here’s another tip that most people seem to overlook and that is the right way to get a stuck jig….UNSTUCK. I find people like to pull harder and harder on a jig, hoping that it will come loose from its mooring, but really they’re just making matters worse and driving the hook deeper into that annoying piece of kelp, sea creature, or barnacle mass. Once you’re stuck, you want to give the jig some slack and then make quick jerks with the rod. This will snap the jig with instantaneous force and dislodge it from the snag. If need be, reposition the boat so you are straight over the jig or where the boat was before you snagged.
Perhaps the most glorious lingcod catcher of all time is the copper pipe jig. It needs no introduction and is a simple contraption of copper pipe filled with lead. A hole is drilled through the middle of the jig and a stainless steel cotter pin inserted. The placement of this pin is important because you do not want the large 12/0 treble hook dragging bottom or hanging up on the main line. The cotter pin and hook should be placed right in the middle of the jig. Don’t forget to put some heavy duty 500 lb. barrel swivels in the equation between the pin and the hook. You want the treble to be able to rotate freely.
The key to proper pipe jigging is to slam the bottom with the jig. It’s not a tap, a touch, a glancing blow…..it is FULL IMPACT.
You want to make some noise with this combination of metals that is on the opposite end of the electrical conductivity scale. It’s the dinner bell ring and calls lings from far and wide. You can also take some personal pride in creating your own pipe jig works of art, but exercise extreme caution if you decide to poor your own lead.
Lingcod look like something that came from the Jurassic period with their camouflage coloring and T-Rex appetite. They provide great opportunities for anglers up and down the coast and make for great table fare. Nothing beats fresh panko’d lingcod, done buffalo rockcod wrap style !
Lingcod is open in Washington Marine areas 2 and 3 and will open in Marine Area 4 on April 16th. Check the regulations for an opening in the marine area of your choice. Sharpen your hooks, watch the weather, load the jig box, and move out!
It’s time for the Lingcod hunt!