A lingcod strike is about as subtle as a dinosaur attack. Even at a few hundred feet down and several feet of stretch in monofilament line, a lingcod can bend a rod double, muscle its way into the rocks, bust off the line, and leave a perplexed angler wondering what the heck just happened. That is my kinda fish! The season for lingcod opens Tuesday.
A keeper lingcod is affectionately called a “lingasaur” aboard my charterboat, the WaveWalker. This is the only fish I’ll nickname after a dinosaur. I don’t think they’ve changed much since the days of the dinosaurs.
Lings live in extreme rocky terrain. The secret to targeting larger lings is to understand how they disperse among the rocks and then fish just the right spots to maximize chances of hooking the largest fish. The biggest toughest lingcod stakes claim to the choicest lair down along the side of a rocky outcropping or ridge where the best caves and grottos are to be found.
These brutes are attracted to action. No doubt about it. If you are fishing live baits, select a large active bait and fish it right down into the rocks where you’re afraid you are going to get hung up. The strike isn’t subtle, and you’ll have just a few seconds to pull that fish away from the rocks.
Jigs are favored lingcod attractors. These fish are highly instinctive feeders, and frequently the jig isn’t near the bottom for more than about two seconds before it gets hammered hard. Shiny jigs, such as a Luhr Jensen, Diamond Jig or Braid, are the most popular because they provide a magic flash.
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 helps attract the attention of a lingcod.
Setting the hook and fighting a lingcod is tricky. When using live bait, wait a moment after a strike, yet when using a jig, set the hook at the first hint of a strike. When you feel a takedown and strong downward surges, crank hard to keep the fish from gaining the security of its lair. If that ling can make it back into its lair and flare its gills you may never get it out of the rocks.
The first 10 seconds of a battle with a lingasaur is 90 percent of the story. That’s the bottom line. The signature of a lingcod is a strong second effort after you’ve fought it far enough up that the ambient light grows bright and it decides it doesn’t want to have any part of the surface of the sea.
These fish do not have air bladders, so juveniles can be brought up from great depths and then quickly released without any special care. They are rugged durable fish, and will swim all the way back down to their rocky home with their bad attitude still very much intact.