Fishing for Lingcod is an exciting and easy activity that can be done from the shore or in a boat. Despite their intimidating appearance, Lingcod meat has more flavor than a traditional Cod. And they’re a lot of fun to catch.
Before you head to the water for a fishing trip to catch Lingcod, make sure you take a few minutes to read this guide.
If you want to catch Lingcod from the shore, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with local fishing rules and regulations, where to find them, the proper equipment and bait, use the right Lingcod catching technique, and learn how to handle a Lingcod safely.
This guide will help you learn everything you need to know about how to catch lingcod from the shore. Welcome to Lingcod Shore Fishing 101. Class is in session.
What Are Lingcods?
Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) are a type of saltwater fish that dwell on the bottom of rocky waters along the Western Coast.
This type of fish can grow up to 60 inches (150 centimeters) and weigh more than 80 pounds (35 kilograms).
These fish have a frightening appearance, with dark brown or copper spots covering most of their brown and green scaly skin.
This camouflage allows them to blend in with the bottom of the ocean so their prey can’t see them until too late.
They can be found in multiple colors and have elongated bodies with huge heads. Even scarier, they have giant mouths filled with 18-razor sharp teeth.
Lingcod are also called Buffalo cod, Buckethead, Gator bass, greenling, blue cod, bluefish, and green cod. Despite having the name cod and ling, they do not belong to the cod family or the ling family.
They are considered a greenling, which is a carnivorous fish with strong teeth. Other types of greenling fish are mackerel and rock greenling (Britannica).
Lingcod are aggressive fish, known for eating anything that gets close to them. They rest at the bottom of the water, usually around rocky floor beds.
When fishing for Lingcod, you need a setup that allows you to fish on the bottom without snagging on the rocks.
Rules and Regulations of Lingcod Fishing
When fishing for Lingcod, there are regulations regarding the amount of fish you can keep. The limit is two fish per angler. And you cannot keep any Lingcod less than 22″ in total length (California Department of Fish and Wildlife).
In California, it is against the law for anglers to cause injury to a fish that they aren’t going to keep, including forceful removal of a hook or using gaff hooks to help retrieve fish from the water (California Department of Fish and Wildlife).
There are also restrictions on the depth that you can fish for Lingcod, based on federal regulations listed in 50 CFR Part 660, Subpart C (Electronic Code of Federal Regulations).
These vary by management area, but at most, you cannot exceed the seaward of the 75-fathom depth contour, which is 450 feet (137.16 meters).
For anyone unsure what this means, fathom is a way of measuring the depth of water. One fathom equals 6 feet (1.8288 meters) (Wikipedia).
Best Season To Catch Lingcod
When fishing for Lingcod, it’s essential to make sure you’re doing so in season. In California, there are different seasons for each area (California Department of Fish and Wildlife).
We’ll break these down further so you can be sure you’re fishing at the right time.
When visiting MPAs (marine protected areas), you will always want to check the MPA website to ensure there are no regulations recently put into place regarding sports fishing. Rules can change from time to time.
Northern Management Area
The Northern Management Area goes from the California-Oregon border at 42°00′ N to Cape Mendocino at coordinates 40°10′ N latitude. This area includes Del Norte County and the majority of Humboldt County.
The season for Greenling in the Northern Management Area is open from May 1 to October 31, and then again from November 1 to December 31 for anglers who are fishing from a boat.
From January 1 to April 30, it is prohibited to fish for Lingcod from a boat in the Northern Management Area.
During the early season, you cannot fish seaward of the 30-fathom depth contour, meaning around 180 feet. However, in the late season, you can catch at any depth.
The rules are different for divers and anglers who are fishing from the shore. These anglers can fish for Lingcod year-round, without a close to the season.
Mendocino Management Area
The Mendocino Management Area goes from Cape Mendocino, 40° 10’N. Latitude to 38°57.5′ N. latitude, which is Point Arena.
This management area encompasses the parts of Humboldt County that aren’t covered by the Northern Management Area and most of Mendocino County.
The seasons for Lingcod are the same in Mendocino Management Area as with the NMA. You can fish from the boat from May 1 to October 31 and again from November 1 to December 31.
However, there is a depth difference compared to NMA. You cannot fish past a depth of 120 feet from May 1 to October 31. There is no depth length during the late season.
Lingcod season is open year-round to shore anglers and divers in the Northern Management Area.
San Francisco Management Area
The San Francisco Management Area starts at Point Arena 38°57.5N latitude and extends to Pigeon Point, latitude 37° 11′ N.
It covers a ton of areas, including some of Mendocino County and all of Sonoma, Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties. It also covers most of the county of San Mateo.
In the SFMA, Lingcod season is open for boat anglers from April 1 to December 31. It is closed from January 1 to March 31. There is a depth restriction of 240 feet.
For shore anglers and divers, the Lingcod season is open year-round for all of the San Francisco Management Area.
Central Management Area
The Central Management Area covers from Pigeon Point 37°11′ N. latitude to Point Conception at 34° 27’N latitude.
The counties of Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Luis Obispo fall into this management area. It also covers some of San Mateo and Santa Barbara counties.
For anglers fishing by boat, the Lingcod season is open from April 1 to December 31 and is closed from January 1 to March 31.
When fishing from the shore or diving, the season is open year-round. There is a fathom depth contour limit of 300 feet.
Southern Management Area
Point Conception 34°27′ N to the U.S.-Mexican border makes up the Southern Management Area. However, some areas are excluded as part of the Cowcod Conservation Area.
This management area covers some of Santa Barbara County and the entire Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, and San Diego counties.
Fishing from the boat is open from March 1 to December 31. It’s closed from January 1 to February 28.
Diving and fishing from the shore are open year-round. However, you cannot fish seaward of the fathom depth contour 75, which is around 450 feet.
Cowcod Conservation Areas
Cowcod Conservation Area covers the area between 34°27′ N and the border in two separate areas.
Area 1 is south of the northern Channel Islands, while Area 2 is west of San Diego.
Lingcod season is open year-round for shore anglers and divers. But for fishing from a boat, the season is open from March 1 to December 31 and closed January 1 to February 28.
It is prohibited to fish past a depth of 240 feet.
Best Time of Year to Fish for Lingcod
Lingcod aren’t migratory fish, so you can usually find them in the same colonized areas. In the fall, you’ll have better chances of catching Lingcod from the shore, as this type of fish moves inland to spawn – reproduce (Wikipedia).
Look for fast currents and rocky areas, as these are Lingcod’s favorite breeding grounds. Between December and March, male Lingcods will protect their nests.
If you can get your lure into their breeding grounds, you’re guaranteed to snag at least one Lingcod.
Lingcod are saltwater fish found along the West Coast, from Baja Mexico, all the way up to Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands.
They’re also in British Columbia, Canada, and Washington, Oregon, and along the California coastline (Fish Choice).
These saltwater fish love rocky areas and kelp beds. They are usually in regions that have significant algae growth along the coast.
They also prefer strong currents, so look for channels with rapidly moving water and rocky reefs (Animal Diversity Web).
You won’t find Lingcod in areas that are muddy or sandy. Nor will they be in still, stagnant waters. If the water is murky and swampy, you won’t find Lingcod.
Water temperature does not affect Lingcod, so you’ll want to worry more about watching the water’s depth than the temperature.
Lingcod are typically found in depths less than 100 meters (328 feet). However, you can occasionally catch them as far down as 420 meters (1377.95 feet).
They are considered a bottom fish, so when fishing for them, you’ll want to make sure your rig is set up for fishing on the ocean’s floor. This setup would include a strong fishing line and attaching leaders.
How to Catch Lingcod From the Shore?
Fishing for Lingcod from the shore can be a fun experience, and it can be pretty easy once you get the hang of it. The most crucial part of fishing from the shore is to find the right location.
Because Lingcod like rocky areas, anglers frequently fish around jetties, piers, marinas, and beaches where there are rocky outcroppings instead of sand. You can also position yourself in areas where there is fast-moving water.
Most of the time, if you catch a Lingcod, it’s because you have found their nesting ground. If you return to this spot, you’ll often continue to catch Lingcod.
Lingcod Aren’t Social.
It can be challenging to find Lingcod in a large group, as they are aggressive fish that eat anything around them, including other Lingcod.
But their tendency to attack means that they’re pretty easy to catch if you’re in the right place and using the right equipment and bait.
Lingcod are a “ride-along” fish, meaning you’ll probably have times when you catch one by accident as they latch onto the fish you’ve snagged with your line (Lingcod Fishing).
There might even be times when you get two or three Lingcods at the same time because a bigger Ling bites the smaller one as you’re pulling it up.
Methods of Catching Lingcod
When you’re trying to catch Lingcod, there are multiple methods you can try. The great thing about trying to find Lingcod is that they usually attack anything you use to catch them, whether it’s real bait or a shiny metal lure.
Jigging is when you use a fishing gig in place of bait. Jigs attract Lingcod because they sink fast and mimic the movements of fleeing prey.
When you are jigging, you will free spool your line to sink to the bottom. The jig will make it drop quickly.
Next, you will reel in at least one to three feet (0.03048 to 0.9144 meters).
Finally, pull the rod up vertically with a swift jerk. Repeat the tugging method every fifteen seconds (Mister Twister).
If, after a few minutes, you haven’t gotten a bite, reel your line back in and free spool again in a different area.
Failure to free spool can keep your jig from resting on the bottom, which can make you miss out on catching Lingcod.
When you want to fish using bait, whether fresh or frozen, you’ll have to set up your rig differently than you would with a jig.
Most anglers use a monofilament leader rigged with one to three hooks. You’ll also need a weight positioned above the leader.
Attach your bait of choice to your hooks, ensuring the hook sits in properly so your bait doesn’t fly off during your cast.
Since you are fishing bottom, you will not need a bobber or cork. You will know when a fish is on the line by the tug.
Most Lingcod hit the hooks hard, but you might have some who aren’t as aggressive with their attack.
There is no need to set the hook, so you don’t have to snatch the pole up as soon as you realize you have a bite. Instead, reel the fish in slowly with steady spins.
Tackle and Equipment for Catching Lingcod
Because Lingcod likes to eat anything around them, you have a wide variety of options when deciding what to use for your tackle.
Some anglers prefer to use real bait, either alive or dead. You can use any actual bait type, but live bait would work better as the movement would appeal more to a Lingcod than stationary bait.
Where you’ll be fishing is going to play a significant role in the type of tackle and bait you’ll choose to use. You’ll need different criteria depending on the location and depth of water.
When you’re shore fishing, you’ll be standing on land and casting out into the water. How far you will need to cast out will determine the type of setup you’ll need and the type of line.
You’ll want a rod that is capable of casting at least four ounces. Your rod needs to be sturdy enough to handle the weight of your setup and the Lingcod’s weight.
Consider using a bait caster or spinning reel over a closed-face reel. Closed-face reels don’t cast as fast, so you could have trouble getting to the exact area you want.
The weight of your rig can cause the line to fall more quickly than desired, leading to a shorter cast.
Strength of Test
Because you’ll be fishing on rocks, you’ll need a tight line that won’t break easily and can withstand snagging. The first thing to consider about your line is the test – how much weight the line can hold.
The test of your line will correspond to the weight of the fish you’re chasing. The higher the test, the bigger the fish you can catch – the test measures in pounds (West Marine).
A 20-pound test will hold up to a 20-pound fish but no more. Figure out the average size of the Lingcod caught in the area you want to fish to determine what pound test you’ll need for your pole. A 30-pound test is usually strong enough for most Lingcod shore fishing.
Type of Line
Next, you’ll need to decide what type of line. Most Lingcod anglers use braided fishing lines with monofilament leaders.
Braided line lets you feel your lure as it’s moving along the ground. You’ll be able to tell when you’re not touching or when you’ve got a bite.
Monofilament line is frequently used for your leaders, but some anglers choose wire leaders, which can’t be severed by Lingcod’s sharp teeth.
You’ll want a more substantial test than your fishing line. Opt for a line that’s between 40 to 60-pound test (Hummingbird Fish Finder Reviews).
Baiting Your Rig
When fishing for Lingcod, there are different methods you can use to attract the fish to your rig.
You can use fresh bait, such as other types of fish or aquatic sealife – mackerel, sanddab, eel, squid, and anchovies are all excellent baits.
Or you could use artificial lures. The 6″ Sanddab Lure by the Real Fish Store would be all you’d need to snag as many Lingcod as you want.
Many anglers who are fishing for Lingcod use a pole set up with a leader (Seabreeze), an extra piece of fishing line attached to your mainline.
You connect your hooks and bait to the leader, which holds up better against snags and is less visible to fish.
Leaders work whether you choose to use live bait or if you’re using a jig or artificial grub. You’ll typically use one to three treble hooks on your leader, depending on your bait.
Mackerel is a great fish to use for bait, and it’s easy to get for free. Not to mention, you get to spend even more time fishing to get it!
But you can also use other types of fish such as small rockfish, anchovies, squid (it doesn’t have to be fresh), salmon or herring.
Other anglers prefer to use lures and other artificial bait to catch Lingcod. Metal jigs are one of the best types of lures for Lingcod and probably the easiest. This fish WOW! 10 pieces of 4-ounce Jig is sure to attract plenty of Lingcod.
Once your jig hits bottom – you should feel a slight thud or vibration when your lure connects to the rocks – give it a few small tugs to make it bounce. If there’s a Lingcod nearby, it’ll hit almost immediately.
And if the Lingcod spits out your lure, give it a few tugs, and the fish should bite it again. They’re quite persistent.
Unlike other types of fish, Lingcod doesn’t spook once you snag them. They’ll continue to attack your lure as long as you’re in its territory.
Best Lures for Lingcod Fishing
When picking your jig, shiny metal ones work best, such as the Fish WOW! Fishing Spoon Bait Lures. But colored jigs would work just as well, like the Proberos Jigging Fishing Lures 6 piece set.
But, you should look for jigs that have hooks on the top of the lure instead of on the bottom. These reduce the chances of snagging. A one or two-ounce jig is plenty for a Lingcod.
In addition to jigs, Lingcod can also be caught with plastic swimbaits and grubs between 5″ and 8″ (12.7 centimeters to 20.32 centimeters).
The Sanhu 6″ Shad swimbait is an excellent lure for Lingcod. For a grub lure, try this ten pack of Zoom Fat Albert 5″ Grubs.
The problem with swimbaits is that they’re usually weightless, making them difficult to use in strong currents as they won’t stay on the bottom.
You can attach weights to your line to help hold the lure down. Or find a weighted swimbait like the Octopus swimbaits by Amicablefish.
Use Precautions When Catching Lingcod
Catching Lingcod can be thrilling, but it can also be dangerous. Their eighteen sharp teeth can cause injury to unprepared anglers who don’t use caution.
And to double the threat, Lingcods also have sharp bones as their gill rakers that will slice you up if you’re not protected.
The gill rakers protect the Lingcod’s gills, which is how fish breathe (Science Direct). You might not be able to see the gill rakers, but they are always there and are potentially dangerous.
Use a Net to Get Lingcod Out of the Water
Unlike with other types of fish, you can’t grab a Lingcod by the jaw or gills to pull them up. When you’re ready to get a Lingcod out of the water, skip the hands-on approach.
Use a dip net instead. We like a net such as the Frabill Conservation Series Landing Net. Fishing nets make it easier and safer to pull your catch up.
Plus, you avoid coming into contact with the sharp, dangerous teeth and bones.
How to Remove a Lingcod From Your Hook
Usually, when you’re trying to get a fish off of your hook, you hold the fish by the jaw. You may have to put your hand inside the mouth to remove the hook.
But with Lingcod, you’ll have to improvise with a different hold method. Instead, you need to place your thumb and index finger into the eye sockets using one hand (California Department of Fish and Wildlife).
Use a pair of needle-nose pliers or hemostats to work the hook free with your other hand.
You can wear a fishing glove like these from Fishing Gloves by Big Worm Fishing to protect your hand in case you come in contact with the Lingcod’s teeth or gills.
Holding a Lingcod for measuring or photographing uses one hand to hold the fish by his eyes. Your other hand should wrap around the Lingcod’s tail.
We’ve told you everything you need to know about how to catch Lingcod from the shore. You know the best places to find ling, what they look like, the best types of equipment, and how to handle a Lingcod safely.
You don’t need to spend a bunch of money on fancy lures and equipment to catch a Lingcod. These aggressive fish will attack anything that they see invading their territory.
You can use a plain, simple metal jig or catch a few smaller fish to tempt Lingcod with fresh bait.
Congratulations on graduating Lingcod Shore Fishing 101. Now that you’ve passed with flying colors, it’s time to test your knowledge with hands-on training.
Grab your favorite rod and pick the rockiest spot you can find. Castaway and get yourself some yummy Lingcod to cook for a healthy lunch or dinner.