Lingcod Fishing in California

April 14, 2020

Pacific Coast anglers know that the lingcod is an amazing fish to catch. It might not be pretty to look at, but it sure is pretty fun to get on the line and even better to eat! In California, the lingcod season is open from March 1, 2020 until December 31, 2020 for boat-based anglers. It’s open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers.

If you’re considering a lingcod fishing charter this year, we’ve got everything you need to know about this incredible species.


What’s really interesting about the lingcod, is that it’s neither a ling nor a cod. It just kinda looks like both of these fish, so that’s the name it got. It’s actually a type of Rockfish and a member of the greenling family. Other names include buffalo cod, cultus cod, blue cod, bluefish, greenling, or “buckethead”.

They are a long and big fish, sometimes reaching as much as 60 inches and can weigh over 80 pounds. Their color varies from reddish brown (or copper) to grey brown, or even blue-green with spots across their body. They have a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, which they use in their predatory skills of eating pretty much anything they can and protecting young spawns in their nests.

Lingcod are generally found along the North American West Coast near the bottom of the ocean, whether that’s 30 or 300 feet deep. They are not a fish that schools together in groups, preferring to be more isolated and eating. They prefer hanging around rocky areas or habitats with drop-offs and ledges. This allows them to hide and sneak up on their prey.

Have we mentioned how much lingcod enjoys eating? This is a big factor when deciding how to catch them.

Fishing For Lingcod

Lingcod are known as a non-migratory fish. Meaning that where you caught them one time is a good place to start fishing the next time. If this is your first time fishing for lingcod, you’ll want to hire a local charter captain who knows the area and where to go for a successful outing. Depending on where you are fishing in California will determine how far out you need to go. Most charters will drive until they are out about 80 feet deep (on average) and fish the rocky bottom. Fish in the early morning hours for best results.

You’ll want to drift fish your bait along the bottom to get the lingcod’s attention. It may take a few casts to get the bait in the preferred area at the correct depth. Feel free to reel in and try again if needed. Make sure you have a sinker weight the accurate size, too heavy and it will be difficult to drift your bait, too light and it won’t be an effective weight. This is also why the depth you are fishing is an important factor when targeting lingcod.

If you’ve got the arm strength, you can try your hand at jigging for lingcod. This is a technique with a more vertical (up and down) motion. Again, your sinker weight is an important factor when trying to lure the lingcod to the line.

Most anglers will use “swim baits” or “fish traps” when fishing for lingcod. This artificial lure typically has a hooked head and plastic tail. If you want to try live bait, we recommend anchovies, mackerel, or juvenile rockfish. In reality, lingcod are not very picky and will take whatever looks like food. Oftentimes lingcod are “hijacked fish” – meaning that you hook another fish and get the lingcod locked onto your catch. It’s basically a two-for-one-deal!

Once your lingcod is clean and filleted, get ready for a delicious meal. Many consider it the best tasting fish in the ocean. When prepared correctly it can have the same texture as lobster. Other ways to prepare your fillets include baking or pan-searing. Add some lemon, spices such as garlic and onion powder, and bon appetit!

Book A Lingcod Fishing Charter

Lingcod aren’t as big in California as they are in Alaska, but they are still fun to catch! And you’re certain to go home with a full cooler: each angler can harvest two lingcod per trip, with a minimum size of 22 inches in total length. If you’re not sure where or how to catch lingcod, find a local professional captain that can guide you to a great day on the water. Reserve your lingcod fishing charter today and make sure to bring your camera to capture all the memories!

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