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Captain’s Log: Surge in Lingcod Population Lures Angling Opportunities

Counts of catch and release are way up; here's what you need to know to get in on the action

Never in all my years of fishing have I seen so many lingcod. The counts of catch and release aboard my charter boat alone are amazing.

I recall one half-day trip recently when we caught and released more than 50 lingcod, keeping just a few for dinner. We’re seeing numerous juvenile lingcod of varying sizes, which indicates multiple great recruitment years recently. That means great fishing in our future.

We can thank tried and true fisheries management practices for this success. We do not need Marine Protected Areas to successfully manage our fish.

Any lingcod more than 10 pounds is called a “lingasaur” aboard my charter boat, the WaveWalker. This is the only fish I’ll nickname after a dinosaur, and one look into the gaping mouth of these denizens of the deep and anyone can quickly see why they deserve such a nickname. They have big teeth, a powerful build and a terribly ornery attitude.

Lingcod live in rocky terrain. The biggest and toughest lings stake their claims to the choicest lairs along the sides of rock outcroppings and ridges about 100 feet apart, sometimes less, and stoically defend the territories around their lairs. Smaller lingcod are chased off and end up relegated to the top of the reefs, where they have less protection and have to work harder for meals.

To target lingasaur, fish partway down the sides of rocky structure. The little guys are on top. When the direction of the drift is along structure, such as an underwater ridge, it is easy to position for a long drift at just the right position to fish for the big guys. When the drift is perpendicular to a ridge, it becomes necessary to make successive drifts across the structure to maximize the time when your offering is within striking range of the lairs of the biggest lings.

Lures are my favorite lingcod attractors. From a ling’s perspective, there is just something irresistible about a shiny offering bounced erratically in front of its nose. A lingslayer lure is the best bet, and they are available at Hook, Line & Sinker, 4010 Calle Real. Tie a teaser hook about 18 inches up the line from the jig for extra fun. It is common to catch a rockfish on a teaser baited with squid strips or a plastic tail. The wiggling rockfish sure gets the attention of the lingcod, which will then attack either the lingslayer, which is closer, or the rockfish.

The first 10 seconds of a battle with a lingasaur is 90 percent of the story. When you feel a takedown and strong downward surges, set the hook and crank hard to keep the fish from gaining the security of its lair. If that ling can make it back into his lair and flare its gills, you may never get it out of the rocks. If you can keep it out of the rocks, you have a good chance of boating the brute.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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