When a fish smiles…
Lingcod (ophiodon elongatus) are almost primeval looking with large, gaping mouths and 18 large, sharp canine-like teeth. The term “ophiodon” means “snake-toothed.”
This fish was given the name ‘Lingcod’ because it looked a bit like both a ling and a cod fish. Not because it was either or even related. Lingcods belong to the greenling family (Hexagrammidae).
This voracious predator can grow to be 5 feet long and weigh up to around 130 pounds. Average size along the Oregon coast is around 2-3 feet (or around 5-10 years old).
The fish has a sinuous body with two successive long fins. They are typically dark gray, brown, or greenish on the back with some copper-colored mottling or spotting along the upper back, and sometimes blue.
Lingcods are native to the North American west coast from the Gulf of Alaska into Baja California, Mexico. Adults like to be near rocks, inshore up to 230-fathoms deep. Young lingcod prefer sandy or muddy bay bottoms and inshore areas.
As adults Lingcod are fairly sedentary and non-migratory. Males migrate to nearshore spawning grounds in late fall to establish and aggressively defend nest sites. Preferred sites have strong currents and are near rock crevices and ledges.
Spawning occurs in winter. Mature females leave the spawning ground after depositing the eggs.
Male Lingcods guard the nest until hatch (about 8- to 1-weeks later). Successful spawning would not be possible without this protection. Rockfish, sculpins, kelp greenlings, Sea Stars, and other cod will quickly destroy an unguarded nest.
Prey & Predators
Adults are aggressive predators that will eat just about anything they can fit into their large gaping mouths. Prey includes smaller lingcod, squid, octopi, crab, and large rock fish. Predators include sea lions and harbor seals, along with sharks and larger lingcod.
Lingcods are prized by ocean sport and spear anglers, and have been an important part of local cultures.
Restrictions to protect habitat can involve seasons, areas, and equipment. Be sure to check Oregon Sport Fishing regulations and seasonal changes, licensing, and limits.
Lingcods harvested nearshore are often larger and tastier. Going out beyond the bay could be well worth the journey.
Fish don’t smile. Mind the fingers…
–National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/lingcod)
–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Lingcod (https://myodfw.com/fishing/species/lingcod)
–Fishing Booker (https://fishingbooker.com/fish/lingcod/us/OR)
–Wikipedia, Lingcod (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingcod)