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July 10, 2016
July 1st is the date that the crew of Fish Seward Alaska Inc. looks forward to every year because on this day our fish boxes fill up with Lingcod! My first experience catching lingcod was with my childhood friend Rhys Fong out of Brookings Oregon from his 21 foot jet-sled. We would tow his boat about 100 miles from Medford Oregon to Brookings Oregon to chase and catch what we thought were “big” Lingcod. In this section of Oregon anglers can keep two lings over 22in and a 30lb Ling is a trophy fish, but those fish are far and few in between. We had to work hard for Lingcod in Oregon, but the education I received there would latter payoff in a big way for my clients in Alaska. In 2007 I started my charter service out of Seward Alaska and while most boats were targeting trophy halibut I wanted trophy Lingcod. Not only is the Lingcod a great fighting fish, in my option they eat way better than halibut.
The Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound produced the most amazing Lingcod fishing compared to any area in Alaska, or any other state for that matter. The harvest limits for the North Gulf Coast and Prince William Sound reflect how strong the Lingcod fishery truly is. For example, anglers can keep one Lingcod over 35 inches West of Cape Fairfield in the Gulf of Alaska and the North Gulf Coast waters and two over 35 inches in the waters of Prince William Sound, from Seward those waters start East of Cape Fairfield and includes the waters surrounding Montague Island. The reason for the 35-inch rule is to allow the Lingcod at least one chance to nspawn before the fish is able to be harvested.
As a charter Captain that loves catching and talking about Lingcod I am often asked "is Lingcod, a Cod?" The answer is no, Lingcod are in the greenling family. In my option Lingcod are a prize and cod are just cod. I've had my best luck targeting Lingcod on rock piles and flats between rock piles. Lingcod are a non-migratory fish however starting in October Lingcod move near shore to their spawning grounds. Males migrate first to establish a nest in strong current areas inside rock crevices and ledges; spawning happens between December and March. Once the female's spawn they leave the nest almost immediately and the males stay to guard the nest until the eggs hatch between March and late April.
Lingcod mature between three and five years old, males live up to 14 years and females can make it to 20 years old. Lingcod are predators that eat whatever they can get into their mouth. In areas where you can fish live non-game fish such as a kelp-greenling, do it! When live bait is not an option I have great luck with the Kalins 10in Big-N-Grub baits, on 16-24oz bullet jigs. Because of the heavy weight and big baits I use the Lamiglas (Insane Salt rod 50-100lb) rod with the Tica 30R/WTS lever drag reel with 80lb braid. I use this rod and reel setup because these Lingcod are 30-70lbs plus hooking a 100lb Halibut is common. In fact, go to the Lunker Junkies TV YouTube page and watch the episode titled “Lingcod Opener.” I filmed this episode in 2014 during the Lingcod opener, and is truly is a blast to watch.
Moreover, I cover all my grubs and jigs with Pro-Cure shrimp or squid gel; this gel will keep a scent on your lure for up to 45mins. Another killer setup is a halibut bait rig with a whole black label hearing, or a salmon carcass, octopus tentacles are also marvelous baits. I inject my baits with the Pro-Cure shrimp or squid water soluble oil. The Pro-Cure Water Soluble oils come out of your baits like a fog and remain in the water column you are fishing, once your baits hit the water you will see what I am talking about. Remember Lingcod are the king of the nearshore sea-jungle so fish big baits, use lots of action, fish near the bottom and you will get a bent rod followed with a full fish box.
If you are taking your own boat out of Seward the Chiswell Islands, Lone Rock, and Seal Rocks have some perfect structure for Lingcod and Rockfish that is still close to Seward. Look closely at your chart and look for extreme depth changes from 150ft to 50ft. if the current is between 1knt and 2knt try some long drifts, pay close attention to your sounder and you will find rock plies that are not on your charts. This is also a great way to pick-up some big halibut too. In 2005 ADF&G did an ROV survey with ancillary population estimates of Lingcod and demersal shelf rockfish. Because the survey is 53 pages and in great detail I am sharing just a few highlights. I truly recommend for the Lingcod and Rockfish enthusiast whom fishes the Seward area to take a close look at the document. This ROV survey was done around the Chiswell Islands/Ridge and Granite Island.
The management of many marine ground fish species is complicated by the lack of quantitative assessment data. This is particularly true for the lingcod and rockfish in the Cook Inlet management area. Many traditional sampling methods used to estimate population size or trends are not practical for the species because of their affinity for rock habitats.
Lingcod are more resistant to fishing pressure than rockfish because they mature earlier are shorter lived and are faster growing.
The Chiswell Islands-Chiswell Ridge area has historically accounted for a large portion of the recreational and commercial lingcod and shelf rockfish harvest in the Cook Inlet management area.
The ROV survey showed Lingcod densities were generally higher in the south than north of the Chiswell Islands. The area around Granite Island showed low Lingcod densities.
Lingcod have small home ranges and migrations are generally driven by shifts from juvenile to adult habitats and seasonal shifts associated with shallow water spawning activities and nest guarding by males.
This report/survey was done by Mike Byerly, Margaret Spahn, and Kenneth J. Goldman, Ph.D. I received this survey from Scott Meyer the Statewide Bottomfish Coordinator with ADF&G. If you would like a copy of this survey you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to share it with you.
A few summers ago I was chartering with another 6-pack boat out by Montague Island and we were going to target Lingcod. When we pulled up on the rock pile the current was pushing over 3knts. I told Beau, the other skipper the water was pushing too fast and we would have to come back closer to slack tide to fish the rock pile. Beau, whom now runs one of my charter boats, said let’s just give it a try. We put six 24oz jigs down from my boat and Beau did the same from his boat before we hit bottom the lines were flagging a couple hundred feet behind the boat. Both Beau and I had skilled anglers on board who could feel bottom and let out line as needed. At 3 knts we were basically trolling jigs, and the Lingcod loved it. We drifted 2-3 miles across some Halibut grounds in-between rock piles, not only did we get Lingcod we got a limit of Halibut too. My point is Lingcod are hunters, they are not only on rock piles and if plan A doesn’t work implement plan B.
While out chasing those lings I don't pass up the Rockfish. With good limits and ease to catch every angler can fill the fish box with this ocean treat. Shrimp flies, lead jigs even top water baits can produce these spinney fish. When the water is flat and you see schools of rockfish boiling on the surface try casting spinners. In 2015 I caught countless rockfish in Seward by casting a 1oz Rooster Tail with a light rod. Limits change depending on the area you're fishing so be sure to check the regulations and get a rockfish identification card. There are over 25 types of rockfish so be sure you can identify them and know which ones you can keep and take care when releasing the ones you cannot. While fishing for rockfish you will definitely have a time where you need to release one or two. Some anglers try to vent the rock fish, or pop the swim bladder, or even just toss the fish overboard. Not only are these techniques possibly against the law, depending on where you are fishing, they DON’T work. Please be a responsible angler and use a deep water release. This release system is simple and is proven to have over a 90% success rate. The system consist of a 24oz bullet jig, with the line tied to the shank instead of the head of the jig. You hook your rockfish and descend the fish to at least 120ft, at that time you will feel the fish begin to shake, just jerk your rod, and the fish swims off. This is a simple system and is proven to work. For more detail you can email me or the ADFG. Thank you for your efforts to maintain a strong fishery. Finally, I highly recommend NEVER leave the harbor without a current navigation chart, compass, and a quality GPS. Best of luck and tight lines.
Randy Wells is a fulltime fishing guide, TV host and outdoor writer. Visit Randy’s website to book a fishing trip in Seward, AK www.fishsewardalaska.com or call 907-947-3349
June 18, 2016
Seward Alaska is located just 100 miles south of Anchorage and is referred to as "Where Alaska Begins." With countless attractions and the best salt water fishing in Alaska, the coastal town of Seward is a place that should be at the top of anyone's Alaska fishing vacation...