Are you interested in going Lingcod spearfishing? If you are, read on to find out about what’s a lingcod, where you can find them and of course what are the best techniques to use when spearfishing for them. We will also recommend some gear, such as spearguns and wetsuits, etc.
What’s A Lingcod?
First, what’s a Lingcod? A Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) is part of the greenling family of fish. Its ancestors date back to the late Miocene of Southern California where fossils have been found. If you have never seen one they do look prehistoric. Their skin is typically spotted with browns and greys. They have large heads, eyes, and razor-sharp teeth. They can grow to 5 feet plus and weigh over 125 lbs. Typically mature females and males range from 23 to 30 inches.
Their flesh is typically a nice white color. At times you will come across one that has a slight bluish/green tint to it. A little bit like a Cabazon. They are fantastic to eat. I can taste those fish tacos now…delicious!
Where To Find Them – Geographically
Lingcod are native to the West Coast of North America. Spanning from Alaska and as far south as Baja California. Starting from Baja, I have found the more north you go the more abundant they become. I’ve speared many a Lingcod along the Californian and Oregon Coast. If you want to go after some big boys your destination is British Columbia and Alaska.
Spearfishing Lingcod Techniques
When you are spearfishing for Lingcod you want to look for them in rocks. They are very territorial. Once they find a home they will typically stay until they outgrow it. A dive light is a great tool to have. They like to take up holes waiting for their prey to swim by…that’s not you.
Let me tell you a little story that explains the spearfishing technique I use when going after Lingcod. I will never forget spearing my first Lingcod. My buddy and I were in Carmel, California. Stewert’s Point to be precise. Sidenote, If you are ever in the area you must check out SP. Fantastic spearfishing and it’s a beautiful area.
I literally stopped writing for a couple of minutes thinking about that experience. As mentioned I was with my spearfishing buddy. We were swimming around the point, finishing up our dive. It was a great day, but at that point, we didn’t have any luck spearfishing. There were some nice rock cod out there, but we wanted a Lingcod or Cabazon.
Yep, you guessed it. I saw one. No question about it. It was of legal size. In California, a Lingcod needs to be 22″ plus. This one was well over that. 22″ also happens to be the size required in Oregon and Washington.
Stay Calm – Number One Technique
I could feel my adrenaline pumping but I told myself to stay calm. I’ve mentioned this in other posts. My number one technique when spearfishing above anything else for any type of fish, is to be calm and move slowly. Don’t rush it! It’s so important. You will scare the fish off if you move in an erratic manner. Plus, safety is always your first priority when spearfishing, freediving, scuba diving, etc. Nobody wants you to misfire your speargun into your buddy or yourself. It has happened too often…be safe! It’s all about having fun.
Make A Reference Point
Ok. Apologies I got a little sidetracked. Ok, back on track.
I would say we were in about 15′ of water. The Lingcod was on top of some flat rocks motionless with some kelp in between. I made a reference point with the rocks and kelp and went up for some quick air. This is very important to do. When I started to spearfish I didn’t do this and lost several a nice one.
I went down again and the Lingcod was still there. Being one of the bigger predators, Lingcod are pretty confident and won’t move much when approached calmly. At times they are hard to see. They just blend into their surroundings.
I took aim and then I had him. My first Lingcod and it was a beauty. As he swam off briefly another Lingcod probably a little smaller took off about a foot away. I didn’t see it at all. It just shows you how camouflaged they are. I’m sure I have swum over many a Lingcod, not knowing. So, really look hard when searching for these beauties.
Using A Dive Light
As mentioned when spearfishing for Lingcod you want to take a look in holes and small “caves.” This is where they like to hang out. You will see them out in the open usually between rocks too, but they love to embed themselves and take cover in these small caves.
Using a dive light is of utmost importance. Just shine your light into the hole. Sometimes you will have two eyes looking right at you. Move slowly and take aim. There you have it. A nice Lingcod for dinner.
If you don’t have a dive light, take a look at this link. It’s a review based on my top recommendations. For spearfishing, I would lean towards a smaller powerful dive light. You don’t want something cumbersome that restricts your movement when you have your speargun in the other hand.
One technique that I like to do with my flashlight is to attach it to my speargun and turn it off and on when needed. This is great because as mentioned above you don’t want to mess around with a flashlight when spearfishing. You want to be nimble and focused on spearfishing. Try this technique I highly recommend it.
Kelp Crawl Technique
Swimming back to shore was a little challenging but we didn’t care. It was mid-summer and the kelp in Carmel, California was in full bloom. We performed several kelp crawls. This is where you calmly swim/crawl over kelp. You want to push the kelp calmly away from you, so you don’t get tangled in it. Always bring a dive knife with you just in case you need to cut yourself out. Here’s a link with a review with my top dive knives recommendations. Also, take a look at this post for some additional spearfishing techniques.
Back On The Beach
Back on the beach, we were approached by some fascinated kids curious with our prehistoric catch. I have a photo I need to dig up and will post when I find it. As mentioned the legal minimum size is 22″ for a Lingcod in California. This baby came in at 37″. Not too bad for California waters. What a fantastic experience. Something I will never forget.
Size and Limit Regulations
Below you will find the size and limit requirements for California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. I have also provided you with a link to their direct fishing agencies to get the latest information. Things do change, so also take a look.
22″ and two Lingcod per day. California Fish and Wildlife – Lingcod.
22″ and two Lingcod per day: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – Lingcod.
22″ and two Lingcod per day: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife – Lingcod*
*Scroll down a little on the link above and you will find what you need on Lingcod.
British Columbia, Canada
65 cm. Check the link below for the latest up to date information.
Below are some direct links to some reviews I have made on the gear I recommend for spearfishing you will need to have. One note on the type of wetsuit. Because you will typically find Lingcod in colder waters look for a wetsuit that is around 7 mm. Here’s also a link to my Recommended Gear page where you can find other useful gear when spearfishing.
Here are a few of my top recommendations, I found super useful when spearfishing:
As you have probably guessed, I love to eat Lingcod. Here’s a couple of ways how to prepare this white flakey fish that I enjoy.
- Beer batter them and have some delicious fish n’ chips. The following quick recipe is for 8, 4oz fillets, so add ingredients accordingly. 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons of garlic powder, 3 tablespoons of paprika, 2 teaspoons of black pepper, 1 egg, 1 bottle of your favorite beer and a little salt. Mix all the ingredients together adding the beer last. Once complete dip the fish completely in the batter until they are fully coated. After that, dip the battered fish into 2 quarts of hot vegetable oil (365 degrees). You want the batter to turn a nice golden brown (about 10 – 12 minutes). Once done there you have it…delicious!
- Saute them – This is quick, easy and delicious. 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and get that going. Put the fish in and add some garlic and white wine. Add pepper and salt to taste and you are done.
Well, I wish you all the best when spearfishing Lingcod. I hope this guide gave you some valuable insights and a few good pointers on how to spearfish for them. Remember to stay calm and look in holes, small caves, and crevices. That’s where you will find them looking right at you. As always stay safe and have a great time.