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Fishing for Lingcod

Lingcod put up aggressive fights and make excellent table fair. Anglers catch lingcod in the waters of California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. To catch lingcod you need the right techniques to find their habitat and to entice their strikes. Lingcod is a predatory fish that aggressively attacks its prey and also aggressively defends its territory. Lingcod will attack many fish that approach including the common bait fish like herring but also many other species of rockfish, greenling, salmon, and other prey such as squid, octopus and crab. 

The most common habitat for lingcod is a rocky bottom where there are massive rocks, boulders, and cliffs, with crevices. The lingcod like to lie next to these structures and hide, waiting to ambush their prey. We catch the majority of our lingcod using a drift-fishing technique where we drift over lingcod waypoints. It is almost like predictable clockwork when a lingcod will hit, generally as soon as the tackle gets to the suitable location the fish will hammer it. 50 yards either side and the bites are far fewer.Lingcod may swim some distance to follow a scent trail and may be caught away from their preferred habitat but you will catch far more lingcod by strategically drifting directly overtop of them and then marking their locations and re-drifting over the same feature or very close. If the feature is a large and long underwater cliffline you can do multiple drifts over the cliff edge and likely find lingcod all along the cliff hiding out right at the edge. Once you drift past the feature then pull up your gear and return to the high point and restart another drift over the cliff edge. Record the waypoint, the number of fish caught, time, direction, and magnitude of tide in your logbook for future reference.You always want the current and wind to push your boat from shallow to deep to avoid snagging bottom. If the current is pushing you from deep to shallow then you should check your charts and find a different position where the current will push you from shallow to deep.

There are a ton of tackle rigs you can use for lingcod. Some include metal jigs, leadhead jigs, various herring rigs, and live bait rigs. Anglers will catch lingcod on them all but what you really need to focus on is that the larger your jig is, the more that a trophy lingcod will like it. Small lingcod will also target monster rigs, so you should go ahead and use the largest rig possible. I use metal jigs (Norwegian Cod Jigs) that are around 20oz in weight. These are massive jigs about 12″ in length with massive treble hooks. These jigs are an excellent resemblance of a wounded herring baitfish, and in the deeper waters the light glints off them giving a mirror like shine that further attracts the lingcod. I like the large size because these jigs get down to the bottom fast and can stay there fairly vertically even if the boat is drifting along at a fast speed. I prefer jigs to bait because I don’t have to worry about the bait falling off. Also catching live bait can be difficult so going with metal jigs saves time for more fishing. Other jigs such as leadheads, pipe jigs, and many other jigs can also be used for lingcod.

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