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What is Lingcod?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Lingcod is a marine fish native to the waters of the North Pacific; it can be found along coastlines from Alaska to Mexico. On the West Coast of the United States, lingcod is a popular game and food fish, and it is often readily available at markets and fishmongers. Frozen lingcod is shipped to other regions of the world for consumers who enjoy the mild white flesh of this fish.

Despite the name, lingcod are not actually true codfish. They are actually in the greenling family, and they are formally known as Ophiodon elongatus. A mature lingcod can reach a length of up to five feet (1.5 meters), with a muscular brown to blue green body blotched with copper and brown spots. The fish have distinctive large mouths surrounded by a formidable array of teeth, and their faces are slightly pug-nosed, making them rather funny looking.

In general, these fish are predatory, lying in wait for smaller fish to eat. They can also be very defensive of their territory, especially when they are spawning and guarding the resulting egg packets. Most lingcod prefer to stay close to the ocean floor, and they are often found in reefs and rocky deposits which provide lots of shelter and hiding places.

For sport fishermen, lingcod are a popular game fish because they tend to put up a fight, and their sweet, mild flesh can be cooked in a wide range of ways. White fish tend to be popular with consumers as well, since they are very versatile, and several commercial fishing companies bring in large lingcod catches to meet consumer demand. The mild flesh is sturdy enough to withstand grilling, and it can also be roasted, pan fried, used in fish and chips, and steamed, depending on personal taste. It also absorbs flavor very well.

Although lingcod appears to make a good food fish on the surface, there are some concerns about lingcod which make it a less than ideal choice. The first has to do with their preferred habitat close to the shoreline; lingcod are very vulnerable to oil spills and other forms of pollution, and they tend to bioaccumulate heavy metals and other substances which are not healthy. In addition, lingcod are very slow to mature, so they are threatened by overfishing and other unsustainable practices. Pregnant women should avoid consuming lingcod because of mercury contamination issues, and other people may want to limit their consumption to a few pieces a month.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Sierra02 — On Jun 29, 2011

I live on the East Coast so it's rather difficult to get fresh Alaskan seafood over here. I can however get flash frozen lingcod at the local fish market. I think they label it Greenling down here.

My husband and I like to prepare it with an herb crust then bake it and serve it up with some cool mango salsa. I often use this same recipe for halibut or flounder but I really like the big white smooth texture of the ling the best.

By goldensky — On Jun 29, 2011

@Markus - I have a few tips you can use. First of all bigger bait usually works better because the smaller stuff will attract too many other types of fish. Common lingcod lures are something around six to eight inches in size.

Another thing is to remember that these fish are fast so you need to be ready to set your hook on the first bite. Unless you have him secured with the hook, don't let his head come up out of water without using a net.

A lot of times lings will be hanging onto another fish on your bait so it's very important that you net them before bringing them up out of the water or else they'll free themselves and get away.

And one last thing, as you probably learned from your charter boat excursion is that lings, especially the big ones, like to hang out at the bottom so for this your going to need a heavier jig.

Be sure to get something that will stay at the bottom and not drift so much and bring extras. You might lose several of them before you actually catch the big one.

By Markus — On Jun 29, 2011

I took my father and my son on a fishing trip for ling off the coast of Oregon. It was the most fun we ever had. Those ling cod are ferocious fish and will swallow just about anything.

We went out on a charter boat since it was our first time. We learned a lot about fishing for these feisty fish and I must say it was a challenge.

I plan to do it again real soon only the next time I'm taking my kid brother who's already a sport fisherman. I'd really like to bring in a big five foot lingcod on that trip.

That way my brother will learn he's not the only fisherman in the family and ease up on me a bit. Anyone have some lingcod fishing tips they'd like to share with me?

By jlknight65 — On Jun 28, 2011

@ajvician – I hope your uncle is a fan of catch and release. Many of the companies that run charters from Alaska encourage catch and release since, as this article stated, lingcod are threatened by overfishing.

By ajvician — On Jun 27, 2011

Most people go to Alaska for salmon or halibut fishing, not my Uncle. Every July he flies to Alaska for his annual lingcod fishing trip. He thinks fishing for small game is sissy stuff and prefers the workout he gets from landing one of these aggressive fighters.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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