Part of any great Alaska fishing trip is reeling in your first lingcod, aka Ophiodon elongatus, that mottled brown, long-bodied, beer-bellied, big-lipped creature of the deep with fanlike fins and steel-trap jaws studded with razor-sharp teeth.
Found only on the West Coast of North America, from the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California, lingcod can thrive at depths to 1,000 feet. That said, these ambush predators tend to inhabit rocky reefs close to shore, are fairly sedentary, and prefer to stick close to their home turf. While we find lings in as shallow as 45 feet of water, most of the time we’re looking in depths of 150 to 200 feet. The best bet for fishing them? We like to head to pinnacles armed with large lures or baits and work the bottom. As for size, the adults of this species may weigh anywhere from 5 to 85 pounds, with the Waterfall Resort record at 69.3.
Aggressive and notoriously voracious, lingcod hunt fish up to twice their size and like to chomp down salmon, rockfish, herring, and octopus. Meanwhile, their predators include anglers, seals, sea lions, and other lingcod. In fact, it's not at all uncommon to find a “twofer” on your line—one lingcod on your bait and one (or more!) clamped hard and fast to the bait-eater.
A few other fun facts about lingcod: They're actually greenlings rather than cod. Like salmon, they're high in protein, minerals, vitamins, and omega-3s. And while most of them are brown with white flesh, some are blue-green and yield turquoise fillets. While the basis for this coloration has eluded scientists, it causes neither a taste difference nor any ill effects, and vanishes in the frying pan.
Let's go fishing!