How To Catch Pacific Lingcod (Jigging Technique)
New to fishing? Dreaming of catching a "monster" ling? Looking for some tips?
Here are our 7 tips of the day:
Tip #1 Choose the right lures
Lingcod live in the depths of our Pacific Ocean and come up to shallower water to feed. Some of the biggest lingcod we have caught were in less than 60 feet of water. Lingcod love the movement of water currents for hunting. To successfully get your lure to the fish, it must have adequate weight. In most cases 3 to 5 ounces will work, but in some faster currents, you will need something heavier: we recommend our 7 ounce Anchovy lure. When fishing in deeper water (over 100 feet), use shiny and glowing lures that resemble a fish or swimming octopus/squid shape, to attract the big one. As a further means to entice fish, purchase a pre-rigged lure or add your own rubber squid (hoochie) and/or a pink or glowing bead to your assist hook (as seen in picture above). Finally, if you want the extra edge, fill the squid with scent. Our personal favourite is Pro Cures Garlic Butt Juice super gel. Make sure the scent is not harmful for you or the environment.
Tip #2 Fish during the appropriate weather and tide
When planning for a fishing trip, plan around the weather and the tide cycle. Don't go out on the water during bad weather: this means excessive "precipitation", ie. rain, hail, or snow; winds over 15 knots, and swells over 2.5 feet for smaller boats. Poor weather conditions are unpleasant, particularly for beginners, and can become dangerous. It is always a good idea to let someone on land know your planned route of travel, and a roughly estimated timeline for your trip. This way in case of emergency, you have some point of reference.
Tip #3 Use correct equipment
Lingcod can grow to impressively large sizes. Over 10 pounds are common. In 2002 an 82.6 pound world-record lingcod was caught about 80 miles south of Ninilchik, Alaska. The large female measured 55 inches long!
Lingcod eat almost anything that moves. Therefore, for lingcod, use a 7 to 9 foot medium action rod. Or, for smaller fish and a good fight, use medium fast action rods. We recommend 50 to 100 pounds test braid line, and a 20 to 30 foot, 40 to 50 pound monofilament leader. Tie it with a uni to uni knot, and spool on a spinning or bait cast reel that's designed for 50 pound line. We love using the PENN Battle II Spinning reels. Sealed bearings and keeping things well lubricated is a wise idea for ocean fishing. Use a good reel lube, or in a pinch you can use 3-in-1 oil.
Tip #4 Watch the current, tide, and barometer
Lingcod use water currents to hunt their prey: they lie in wait as the current pushes unsuspecting bait past their hiding place, then they launch a surprise attack. This means that lingcod strikes USUALLY (not always) slow down during slack tide, or when the tide is slowing down. Also, always keep your eye on the barometric pressure. Fish are often more active when a front is moving in, or after a storm has just passed.
Tip #5 Locate structure to locate fish
A great strategy for finding where the fish are, is to locate underwater structures. Look for things such as a "hump" or pile of rocks; a steep shoreline; underwater drop-offs; rock faces; ship wrecks; reefs; etc. These are hotspots for fish activity. You can use charts, sonar, the Navionics app, Fish Brain app, and other similar apps to find underwater structures. ALWAYS be sure to check ahead of time for restricted or protected areas before you drop a jig.
Tip #6 Work the structure and be patient
Position your boat as far from the structure as you can comfortably cast. (Don't worry: if the current is moving too fast, then it's okay to drift over the structure.) Always cast your lure ahead of yourself in the direction the current is flowing, so that you flow towards your lure and so that your line is sinking deeper as you approach it. Your line will end up straightening and becoming more vertical while you drift forward it.
Cast your lure toward the top of the structure. This means at a steep shoreline it would be the shallow area, or at an underwater "hump" it would be at the top of the hump. Then simply allow your jig to fall to the bottom. You'll feel the line go slack when your jig is resting on the bottom. Reel up just one turn, and be ready to catch the aggressive lingcod as they chase the jig down and pin it to the bottom. After reeling up just one turn, then jig once or twice (by moving your rod tip up and down.) After a couple jigging motions, reel in about 30 feet of line, and then let the lure free-spool back to the bottom again. Repeat these steps until your line is vertical under your boat. Jig under the boat for a few min then cast again towards the top of the structure.This allows you to fish the whole structure. When done correctly this method is very productive. Don't spend too much time at the bottom: it's okay to hit the bottom and stir things up, but you'll want to reel up a bit so your jig is about 2 to 5 feet up off bottom. This also allows more visibility of your jig. Don't spend more than 30 minutes in one location. If you're not drifting or getting bites, move on. 50 to100 feet further can be enough to get on the fish: sometimes you're just beside them.
Tip#5 Catch and Respect
When you do catch a beautiful lingcod, hang on! They are tremendous fighters, and can be very feisty once they realize they're hooked. Keep steady pressure on the line and DON'T pull too hard, or you can lose your catch due to several different scenarios involving your hook and the fish's movements. Please choose to be humane and challenge yourself by always using barbless hooks or pinch the barb flat on a barbed hook.
Never gaff or net a fish who is of questionable legal size. Here in British Columbia, Canada, 65 cm is the minimum length. Never bring the fish's head out of the water, or even let the fish break the surface, until you are ready and 100% sure that you're going to retain it. If you ARE going to release the fish, DO NOT touch the gills because this can be extremely harmful to the fish's well-being. Do not remove the fish from the water unnecessarily. When using a net, scoop the fish up and keep clear because they will "death roll". Use a club to bonk the fish on the head (don't be shy they are tough) while it's still in the net. If gaffing the fish, avoid stabbing the meat or stomach, if possible. Aim just behind the gills, and push or pull hard (depending on the gaff type). To avoid dropping and bruising the meat, lift the fish carefully into your boat and use your club to bonk the fish right away. Acting quickly will prevent the thrashing of the fish and subsequent damage. ALWAYS bleed your fish by cutting the gills on both sides of the fish, as soon as possible. This bleeding out will make the meat keep longer and taste better. Get the fish on ice right away. Take your time when filleting/cleaning the fish and always freeze the meat for 24 hours before consuming. For storing the meat in a freezer, we recommend submerging the filets in fresh water within Ziploc freezer bags, which protect the filets from getting dried out or freezer burnt from exposure. Remember to be grateful for your catch: if there are fish in the waters, we should feel blessed. Many fish populations are declining. Taking fish for granted as an attitude, or overfishing, can lead to the complete destruction of fisheries. Take care of yourself and take care of our amazing planet and all its creatures. Good luck and God bless.