Do I just suck at lingcod fishing or what?

Tish

Almost A Member
Jun 27, 2019
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Shoreline WA
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Grant
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1991 Achilles SGX-122, 1997 Boston Whaler Dauntless 17
Hi Guys,
I've only been seriously fishing the salt for 3 years now, and have concentrated on salmon and Dungeness crab and have become pretty good at targeting them. This year I decided to go after some fisheries I've never tried before, namely prawns and lingcod. I've done great with the prawns but man I seem to really be sucking on the lingcod… I've fished for them three times this season in areas 9 and 10 and have nothing to show for it (not even a sub-legal fish) so I'm wondering if I can get any critique of what I'm doing, I've been so unsuccessful that it's time to revisit the basics to make sure I'm not making newbie mistakes.

Areas: This season I fished a half day (noon to 4) on a reef I know of near Richmond Beach in area 10, I've actually caught ling there twice before (last year) but that was when the season was closed and anyway neither one was over 26 inches. I've also spent two full days (9-4) over the last week fishing for them on possession with what seemed like an armada of other boats. Generally targeting 35-70 FOW and fishing the known spots out there.

Technique: I'm setting myself up for a drift, then allowing the tide and wind to push me over the spots where there are reportedly lingcod. Because of the days I've been fishing my drift has been fairly fast from tidal exchange, like 1.5-2mph on the gps at times. I almost never anchor up (I think I've done it twice on my current boat) but have seen some others doing that, might give it a shot to stay firmly over some of the good holes/boulders I can see on my "ClearVu" garmin fish finder setup (94SV).
I've been using two techniques. First one is to load up on palm-sized sand dabs and use them as live bait, on a 2 hook rig with about 30 inches of 40lb test with upper hook (5/0) hooked through sand dab's mouth and lower hook dangling (7/0 or 8/0). I'm using Gamakatsu octopus hooks. I have a slider set up above my swivel with 6-12oz of lead on it depending on the current. I've been dropping the rig until I "thump" on the bottom, then cranking it up 5-10 feet and drifting like that so that the dab is "floating" off the bottom and then just drifting. Second technique I've tried is a lead head jig (6-10oz) with either a big 7 inch berkley glow grub on the 10oz or a 6 inch "new penny" berkley grub on the 6oz. I'm fishing these by letting them drop until they "thump" then jigging them, thumping the bottom every minute or so to check where it is and get some sound as I drift along.

So that's what I've been doing, and though I have pulled up some rockfish and stuff like that I don't have a ling to show for my 2.5 days of fishing. I'm not giving up and plan to hit it again Saturday but in the meantime trying to figure out if it's something I'm doing (like maybe I should anchor vs drift?) or maybe ling are not as easy to come by in this area as I thought and I need to head out to CQ or whatever. Mostly just wanted you all to tell me if it sounds like I'm doing the right thing and just need to put in more time or if there is something you'd recommend I do differently. Thanks in advance!
 
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FishPimpII

Repowering the boat..
Jul 27, 2009
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Jeff Nelson
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Definitely sounds like you need a guy to backtroll the boat to keep it over the fishy spots. At 1.5kts your blowing by the prime spots in a few seconds. (Live bait should still get a bit that way here and there if in right spots but not as good if you hang over those spots backtrolling for a minute.
 
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EJ Swanny

Three Generations of Uff-Dah
Nov 30, 2010
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Erik
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"Riley-J" 2006 21' Proline Tourney
Yep - Back troll, stay on the hot-spots. 8oz jig-head, with a big scampi tail. Colors can vary....oil-slick, black, chartreuse, orange. Take a green label herring, run the hook through the bottom third, then miracle thread the crap out of it on the bottom side of the jig (hook-side).....deadly. Helps to fish on slack tides.... Good-luck.....BTW lings in those areas are, well, scarce......
 
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sgwill122

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Feb 21, 2011
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'Lady Karen' 28 Duckworth Offshore
Live bait is your best shot, fishing with hundreds of neighbors is a pretty low odds ling fishery unless you are 40 miles offshore. There are guides that pull fish out of Possession but they have hundreds of tiny spots marked they have found over the years. If your highest priority is close to home and you just like fishing keep at it and you will eventually find one. If you want to catch fish head to Sekiu or Neah and if you really want spoiled head offshore.
 
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Captain Decent

The Bert makes ‘em Squirt
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When it comes to the sound I am a firm believer that you need to avoid the "known spots". They get fished out fast.

Habitat in the sound is lacking but they are still around. They just won't be concentrated in vast numbers. It's a couple on a little shelf here and another on a rock there. It doesn't take much to hold a ling in the sound. It doesn't have to be prime habitat because there is almost none. But they are around. Cover ground. They can get your bait if they're in the vicinity. But you gotta drag it pretty close to them.
 
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liltrouble

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Jun 9, 2012
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The reef at richmond beach gets cleaned out by divers pretty quickly.

Blakely Rock and restoration Point might produce better numbers. When you look at the basaltic striations on the rocks, there are wonderful lingcod hiding grounds.

Back in the 90's, when running charters in Puget Sound, I also volunteered with NOAA and WDFW on the Puget Sound lingcod restoration program. it was based in Manchester at the NOAA lab.

There were six "plant sites" that were heavily seeded with juvenile lingcod that were raised in that lab with ling eggs, raised to 8-12 inches and released within 1/2 mile of where the eggs were collected. the WFC fought to shut that program down. it was really interesting as we would be in a boat, diver would go down, get 1/2 of the eggs on a nest, inflate a balloon and we would GPS tag the location. Those eggs would be spawned in the lab, raised and returned to habitat within a 1/2 mile area. The biologists had to figure out all of the food they would eat from fry to release time. When they started eating each other, it was time to release them!.

The Manchester lab was such an incredible place. They had above ground tanks with halibut. They were studying the life cycle of the halibut. it was incredible to bang on the side of the tank, grab a handful of fish meal powder and compress it to the size of a softball, open the door and have a whole school of 60# halibut waiting for a snack! you would drop the ball of fish meal in and one would take it. it was so fast you just saw a cloud come out their gills when they took the bait. exciting stuff. i heard Ted Stevens killed that program because her didn't want halibut aquaculture to take any of the fishing revenue away from Alaska.

Once again, i digress. sorry.

Try Blakeky Rock and restoration point. Use your current program and go at slack water. The Manchester shoreline N of the boat launch, had been productive too.
 
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Hunter Dan

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Jun 30, 2011
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We lost a few brood years back around 2015-2017. With several age classes of fish mostly missing that should have been keeper size.....well, don't be too hard on yourself.
 
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Tish

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Jun 27, 2019
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Grant
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1991 Achilles SGX-122, 1997 Boston Whaler Dauntless 17
Damn guys, this is way more response and info than I anticipated and I really appreciate it. Sounds like the biggest issue I need to tackle is controlling my drift and staying on top of the fishy spots longer rather than drifting on by, I'll work on back-trolling... never done it before (have used a drift sock a few times to control the drift but never the motor) but spent the last 30 minutes or so reading about it and watching a few videos and it seems do-able, so I will work on picking up that skill and adding it to my arsenal.

Seriously a ton of info here and I will work on digesting it and will put it all to use. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.
 
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t_dub

I remember when I used to fish.............
Jan 3, 2010
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I'm going to be a bit of a dissenting opinion here but I think your 1.5mph drift speed is fine. my best successes on Possession have come on faster drift speeds. I feel it triggers more of a reaction bite when a snack goes flying by overhead. we've put GoPro's down ahead of the baits and it's amazing how many lingcod actually look at your bait and not inhale it, probably 5:1 ratio, and the longer they had to linger over it, the less likely they were to eat it. definitely keep it closer to the bottom though, couple cranks max, just enough to keep the dab up above the bottom, and be sure to follow any bottom contour changes.
 
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sgwill122

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I'm going to be a bit of a dissenting opinion here but I think your 1.5mph drift speed is fine. my best successes on Possession have come on faster drift speeds. I feel it triggers more of a reaction bite when a snack goes flying by overhead. we've put GoPro's down ahead of the baits and it's amazing how many lingcod actually look at your bait and not inhale it, probably 5:1 ratio, and the longer they had to linger over it, the less likely they were to eat it. definitely keep it closer to the bottom though, couple cranks max, just enough to keep the dab up above the bottom, and be sure to follow any bottom contour changes.
Agreed, I will use my kicker to keep me moving when the current goes slack. You back troll to keep your line strait, if it is too much of an angle you have a tough time staying near the bottom and snag a lot more. The commercials troll their jigs.

 
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moravec

Boston Whaler 18' Outrage
Nov 29, 2008
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Andrew Moravec
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Boston Whaler 18; Outrage
I've hooked most of my MA9 and 10 Lings drifting 1 mph or less, there is definitely a short window in some spots with heavy current. Back into the wind with the kicker to help with that.

We went fishing at a spot in MA8-2 a couple years back and caught a big fat nothing after some heavy efforts, my buddy who took me is a diver, and went spearfishing the next day in the very same spot, got em good, and said there were a bunch of them in the area we were drifting and fishing the day before. Very interesting.
 
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goatram

Notable Member Gate Keeper to the Great Northwest
  • Apr 3, 2008
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    grrrrrrrr
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    Oh and to more specifically answer your direct question, yes you clearly suck at lingcod fishing!! 🖕🖕🖕😜🐟🐟🐟
    I was thinking the samthang.

    Still an ass butt not the first to be Capt. Obvious!
     
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    ShadowX

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    Damn guys, this is way more response and info than I anticipated and I really appreciate it. Sounds like the biggest issue I need to tackle is controlling my drift and staying on top of the fishy spots longer rather than drifting on by, I'll work on back-trolling... never done it before (have used a drift sock a few times to control the drift but never the motor) but spent the last 30 minutes or so reading about it and watching a few videos and it seems do-able, so I will work on picking up that skill and adding it to my arsenal.

    Seriously a ton of info here and I will work on digesting it and will put it all to use. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

    Get a drift sock to help slow your boat down if you are drifting too fast. It helps a lot. You can also adjust the tie point and change the angle of the boat relative to the drift direction.

    I'm not as familiar with the conditions in WA, but if the wind and current is not strong, you can use a GPS controlled troll motor. It helps you to stay in the spot. They have troll motors that will even work on larger boats. We use our troll motors in Southern California all the time even when the waves are rough and the winds blowing around 10-15kts. Its one of the best tools to use for catching rockfish.
     
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    fishbadger

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  • Apr 6, 2012
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    .Grady Gulfstream 232 "Herd of Turtles"
    Yes you probably suck at lingcod fishing, but there's lots of help to change that in this thread, with good points above. It's late in the ling season so folks are generous with advice, good timing!

    Do whatever you need to keep your line as perfectly vertical as possible (less snags, better depth control), mainly motoring back into wind or current. Since you're early in your backtrolling career, pro tip number one. . .keep your lines away from the props! As for tide speed, 0.75 to1.5 mph is perfect, generally lings go off the bite when the current slacks off, but get more active when it's going moderately. At slack tide, they'll bat at bait, or just screw with it, but when tide's moving it's down the hatch. People who only fish the ocean won't be able to give you good advice fishing the Sound, it's a different sport. Different reefs fish very differently on different tides, experiment and take notes, have fun,

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    Socket985

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    Go catch in the ocean & fish in the sound. P.S is great for those quick trips close to home with minimal expectation when it comes to certain species.
     
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    KaiChung

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    I haven't caught any lings at Possession but I've caught a shit ton of rock fish. Well, not actually rock fish. Just rocks actually. I've started to save time by just driving my boat there and dumping all my jigs into the water, then stopping by the Uwajimaya on the way home...
     
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    fishbadger

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  • Apr 6, 2012
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    That's just so sad, knowing how loaded with lingcod Possession used to be. . .and not even that long ago.
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