Lingcod Fishing 101
What Lingcod lack in good looks, they more than make up for on the dinner table. Lingcod are arguably one of the most delicious fish that we have on the West Coast.
These fish are voracious ambush predators with a large bucket mouth lined with 18 razor sharp teeth. Lingcod have been known to take down fish almost as big as they are, including their own species. It’s not uncommon to have a smaller Lingcod hooked up and have a bigger one latch on and swim to the surface with the smaller one firmly locked in it's jaws. It is truly eat or be eaten down there.
Angling Rules and Regulations
The first thing required to fish for Lingcod is a valid BC tidal waters angling license. The license season runs April 1st to March 31st the following year. Tidal waters licenses can be purchased online at https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/licence-permis/application-eng.html or in person at Sea-Run.
While Lingcod can be found all up and down the coast, not every area has openings for them. For example, there is no open season in any waters around the Lower Mainland. This means Lingcod can’t be fished for in Indian Arm, Howe Sound or off the Fraser River mouth (Area 28, Area 29-1 to 29-4 and 29-6 to 29-17).
The inside waters that do have openings for Lingcod typically see the season open May 1st and close on October 1st. The West Coast of Vancouver Island and northern waters open April 1st and close on November 15th.
It is also important to ensure that your vessel has a descending device onboard and is ready to be used as it’s a legal requirement. A descending device is a piece of equipment designed to save a fish that has experienced barotrauma when being brought to the surface. Lingcod typically do not experience this but Rockfish (Rock Cod), which can be by-catch, do.
If a descending device is not used that fish will be unable to swim back down because their swim bladder has expanded. The Seaqualizer or Shelton Fish Descenders work well and are available for purchase online or at Sea-Run.
It is important to note that you must be aware of the Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCA) as fishing is not permitted in these areas. There are a total of 162 RCA’s along the West Coast. All rules and regulations, including size and limits, can be found on the DFO website https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/bc-zones-cb-eng.html.
Jigs for Lingcod
The first method we will discuss is jigging. This method uses a weighted lure that flutters when the rod tip is lifted upwards and lowered quickly, this action imitates a wounded baitfish. This is a nice and easy setup to fish because the weight and lure are all-in-one. We would recommend using a swivel with a heavy monofilament leader of at least 40lbs. The most popular jigs are Buzzbombs, Zzingers, Mac Deeps, Delta Tackle Mac Fish and P-Line Laser Minnows.
You want to get down to the bottom as quickly as possible, so we recommend using heavier jigs in the 3-6oz range. It’s a good idea to let the jig hit the bottom and then bring it up a few feet before you commence jigging. As the boat drifts, bounce the bottom occasionally to ensure you’re in the zone.
Jigging Swim Baits
Swim Baits are lures that are extremely effective for Lingcod. Swim baits look and swim just like real baitfish. The paddle tail wiggles and vibrates to create an irresistible action, even in water that has very little current.
Some of the heavier swim baits can be jigged just like the other jigging lures (raising the rod tip and quickly lowering it) to bring the paddle tail alive. Lingcod can’t help but latch on to them! Popular and productive swim baits are Delta Tackle Power Paddle in the 10oz or 16oz size, and the Lighthouse Lures Max Shad in the 6oz size.
Spreader Bar Swim Baits
Another way to fish for Lingcod is to drift with the current or to use the boat's engine to slowly troll or hover in place. When fishing this method, we use a little bit more of an elaborate setup. This includes attaching a spreader bar to your mainline, a weight and a leader.
The spreader bar not only allows us to tie everything together, but also helps to reduce the chances of gear getting tangled when being lowered. Even when using the spreader bar, it’s always advisable not to let your gear down too fast or tangles can occur.
We recommend using a cylinder weight of 16oz-24oz off the spreader bar and a monofilament leader of 60lb-100lb about 6’-8’ long. Swim baits are deadly effective when fished this way.
One important thing to keep in mind when using these swim baits is that they are weighted. When you lower your gear and hit the bottom you will want to reel up your leader length, plus a bit more or you’ll be getting snagged quickly.
Trolling (Downrigger) Swim Baits
Another productive method is to troll swim baits using a downrigger like one would use to troll for salmon. The swim bait is set up with a leader from the mainline as per the other methods. A heavier leader line is recommended to prevent the sharp teeth of the Lingcod from causing damage to the line. Let your bait out 10’-20’ behind the boat and set it into the downrigger release clip. Then lower to just above the bottom and wait for that rod to bounce!
Where to Catch Lingcod
Lingcod are usually found along rocky structures like pinnacles and reefs. They can also be found on deeper humps with sharp drop offs. Lingcod live in a variety of water depths, from as shallow as 15’ to as deep as 200’.
The jigging method is often the most productive in the shallower depths of 18’-80’. Drifting or slow-trolling methods work best in shallow water of 18’-120’ and the downrigger method should be used for deeper depths of 100’-200’.
Spinning Rods and Reels for Jigging
When using the jigging method, a stout spinning rod is an acceptable setup. This can allow you to drop your line quickly by flicking open the bail or even casting out a lure if need be. This can be particularly advantageous when drifting because you can cast up-current, allowing you to get down to the bottom faster because the line is not being pulled.
Rod lengths of 9’ are the most commonly used. Reels should be saltwater- capable and have a generous line capacity. Some great choices are the Penn Wrath Combo, Penn Fierce III Combo or the Penn Battle III Combo. All rods should be 9’ MH (medium heavy action) and equipped with a 6000 series sized spinning reel.
Braided mainline is a must for these setups as it allows you to use a heavy line without substantially increasing the diameter of the line. Braid has no stretch, so it gives you better hooksets and allows you to feel your lure tick off the bottom better than a monofilament line would. We recommend Power Pro, Tuf-Line XP or Sufix 832 Braid in 65lb or 80lb.
Conventional Rods and Reels for Drifting and Slow Trolling
When drifting or slow trolling with a spreader bar setup, a short 1-piece rod in 6’6”-7’ length and in MH (medium heavy) or H (heavy) action is the norm. These rods are paired with large baitcasting-type reels like the Penn Squall, Shimano Torium, Penn Warfare or Shimano Talica. These reels have strong drags and are designed for saltwater use. Just like the spinning setup, braided line is the way to go here.
Rods and Reels for Downrigger Trolling
When trolling for Lingcod with a downrigger, a standard salmon rod and reel setup can be used. A 10’6” rod like a Trophy Titan 3106, Trophy QR, Okuma Salish or a Fenwick Eagle are all great options to consider.
We recommend pairing these rods with a Daiwa M-One UTD 400, Trophy QR, R3EF, Islander MR3, Islander MR2 LA or an Islander TR3 mooching reel. Braided line should also be used for this setup with the addition of a top shot of 50’ of 40lb monofilament between your mainline and the lure.
The last thing we’d like to mention is to make sure that you have a gaff when fishing for Lingcod. Not only is this one of the best tools for releasing fish but it is the best way to bring a fish on board which is being retained. Using a net like you do when salmon fishing does not go well.
If you have any questions about Lingcod fishing, please feel free to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 604-931-5044 or stop by Sea-Run Fly & Tackle at #110 1140 Austin Avenue in Coquitlam BC.
Good luck on the water.
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