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Ling Cod

Ah, fresh fish n chips! What could be better to eat than fresh fish and chips made with Ling Cod you just caught? In my opinion, not much! My wife prefers Ling Cod so much she'd rather have me bring home Lings than Halibut.

Since I'm not much into Blackmouth fishing (I'd rather be out Steelheading), my first trip of the Spring is always for Ling Cod in Puget Sound. This is also the one time of year my wife insists that I go (like I have to really be pushed).

These have to be one of the meanest, ugliest fish down in the depths of the salt, but they're also a good battle and the thought of the razor sharp teeth coming up at you gets your blood pumping for more.

Oh, and besides everything else.... Delishish!!!

  Here's a 30 plus lb. Ling caught out of La Push

Puget Sound VS Ocean: First of all, we have to distinguish between Ling Cod in Puget Sound vs Ling Cod in the Ocean. Yes they are the same species, but we have different methods for catching each, and the biggest difference is size.

A nice Puget Sound Ling Cod

Puget Sound: Find a sunken ship, sunken bridge (Narrows), or just about any breaker wall or reef made out of boulders and you've already found the habitat for Lings. Many of the marinas are popular spots for Ling fishing as the huge boulders put in place to protect the marina also is where they will burrow down and seek protection themselves. They like "holes" in the rocks like a cave, that allow them to view non-suspecting prey and then devour them.

Be careful when fishing next to the rocks!

Methods: My favorite method in the Sound in to fish live bait, and yes it is legal. I prefer live sand abs, but bullheads or sculpins also can be like feeding candy to a baby under the right circumstances. In some parts of Puget Sound Greenling are also a favorite if you can find them. Since most of the fish in Puget Sound are in the 30" range you'll want small live bait. Sand abs the size of your hand are perfect! I'll rig a 1/0 hook through the upper jaw with a 7/0 hook through the skin near the bottom of the tail. I'll use 25lb mono as a leader, the most abrasion resistant as you can find (many prefer steel leaders, but I've found mono gives the bait more freedom to swim and looks more natural to a curious Ling).. From my main line I'll put on a sliding weight holder then tied to a swivel. A 4 oz cannon ball lead is perfect for most water, but if the current is really pushing and your in over 100ft of water you may have to add more. I generally use a 4 - 6ft leader.

Other Methods: There are many methods others use for Puget Sound Lings, but among the most popular and productive are swim baits. Cast them right into the rocks, in the pockets and caverns and hold on!

Those teeth are Razor Sharp!

What to do: Once you have your spot picked out, your live bait caught and rigged, what now? You'll want to drop your bait to the bottom, then immediately give it 4 or 5 cranks up off the bottom. You want your live bait to be swimming to attract a Ling. Usually, right before a strike, your bait will all of a sudden become full of life! Your rod will be twitching as the poor little sole on the other end is frantically trying to get away from an approaching beast! The Ling will hit once of two ways. First, and the most exciting, a Ling will just annihilate the bait and rip the rod almost from the rod holder. There's no doubt about this kind of bite.. fish on! Second, and the most normal bite, is the Ling will actually take a hold of the bait and freeze. As the tide or wind push your boat it will appear as though you've snagged up on bottom. In this case I pick up the rod and actually give the tip to the Ling until it's either almost in the water or it realizes it's hooked and makes the first move. Set da hook! Many times the hooks will not be embedded in the fishes mouth but they clamp their jaws down like a Pit Bull and won't release their prize.

Ron Harrington with a beautiful (??) San Juan Ling

Netting the Fish: A good Ling will have one or two runs in him. Whatever you do DON'T let the Lings head come out of the water. Once a Ling breaks the surface it's natural instinct is to open it's mouth and most the time out comes your hooks.

Tackle Recommendations: I like a nice stiff rod that has plenty of power to set the hook quickly and won't break using 30lb power pro as main line. I use an 8ft 1 piece rod rated 15 - 30lbs. A nice levelwind reel with a good drag system is also a must. Try the new Shimano Takota 300!

These would be typical size Puget Sound Lings


Ocean Lings: Now the big boys! Not all the Lings out in the ocean are huge, but if you're going to get a huge one your chances of getting one are greatly increased in the open Ocean.

Bradley Pott with a La Push Ling approaching the 30lb mark!

The Target: Generally when fishing for Lings out in the open ocean, we are in fact targeting Halibut. That's most the time... there are times when we go to specific areas that are known Ling producers which may or may not have Halibut around.

These Lings were picked up while targeting Halibut... Nice BONUS huh?

Pictured are Todd Girtz and Don Coatney

Methods: Out in 500 - 800ft of water one things for sure, we're using something heavy. My favorite all time "go to" rig for Lings has to be the 35oz Norwegian Jig. Not only will this get you to the bottom fast, the Lings absolutely love these things. Halibut will also jump on them so if you're specifically trying for Lings, "jig" more frequently instead of just leaving it on the bottom. The more action the jig has the more likely you are to hook a Ling than a halibut. Another method is a plain old pipe jig. Same as with the Norwegian jig, more movement will entice a Ling.

Now if you happen to catch a "scrap" fish, hook it up and drop it down! A Ling will be all over this presentation. Just make sure you use big enough hooks and let the Ling swallow it. You don't want to real up over 500ft with nothing on the other end!

Tackle Recommendations: For the deep ocean fishing we're using strictly Halibut gear. A nice stout 5' rod rated up to 150lbs, and 400 yards of 80lb Power Pro on a Penn Senator 114H Reel with power handle works very nicely.

Other Methods: If were out Halibut fishing and have our Hali's in the boat, then it's time to target Lings by themselves. We'll leave the Halibut grounds and go to the rockiest areas we know. Unlike the Puget Sound breaker walls and reefs, these are going to be natural rocky areas so if you don't know of any, start studying charts. You want the rockiest, gear stealing, high pinnacle looking water you can find. For these types of areas we're generally less than 200ft of water so we're switching gears again. I really like a "dart" in this type of water. Usually a 6oz or larger in white or blue/chrome. Another very popular choice is a mudraker, but because I'm looking for extremely rocky areas, these usually either get hung up and lost, or I get a fish. The fish part I like, loosing a $12 lure I don't.

Closer to Shore: If the open ocean doesn't sound like the way to go, there are plenty of spots closer in that will hold Lings as well. Again, look for pinnacles and rocky areas. Darts, mudrakers and live bait all work well!

Tackle Recommendations: As long as your not out in the 500ft plus water, I stay with my same setup as mentioned above for the Sound.

Be Careful: Remember this is the ocean! Always put SAFETY before any fish. Make sure you have all your safety equipment and watch the weather. These are big fish but no fish is worth your life.

Have fun but be careful... the weather can be nasty!


Terry Wiest