Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus)
elongatus) are not related to true cods but are long,
slender greenlings, a small family of fish (Hexagrammidae)
living in rocky kelp habitats. Growing to over 40 inches and up to 80
pounds, lingcod are fierce carnivores with large mouths and sharp
teeth. Adults are spotted and can vary in colors; juveniles are gold
with brown spots.
Lingcod are found
from Alaska to northern Baja California in deeper water and move to
shallower water when breeding. In Whatcom waters, adults are found in
rocky habitats in Bellingham Bay, around the reef at Point Roberts and
on Alden Bank, and along the shorelines of Birch Head, Cherry Point,
and Lummi Island.
This Whatcom County map shows areas where lingcod
have been found. This map is based on data compiled by Miller and
Borton, Geographical distribution of Puget Sound fishes
(1980); Washington Department of Fisheries, Technical Report
79 (1992); and Palsson et al., Puget Sound
groundfish management plan (1998). The map was created by
People For Puget Sound. Click on map for a larger image.
Lingcod are prized for their
firm flesh and are sought-after favorites of commercial and
recreational fishers and spearfishers. Lingcod are harvested by native
tribes for subsistence and cultural purposes and a very limited
commercial harvest continues in the Strait of Georgia. They are caught
by sport fishers using hook and line and divers using spears and
sometimes caught inadvertently when salmon fishing.
Reproduction: Female lingcod reach sexual maturity in about six years
and lay large masses of eggs from late fall to early spring in rocky
nests in areas where there are strong currents. Male lingcod clean
these eggs and guard them against predators until they hatch in six
weeks. Males are very aggressive and territorial during this time.
Larvae swim in the water column and, as they grow, juveniles move to
shallow bottoms near land, then to deeper rocky reef areas as more
sedentary adults. Lingcod live to about 15 years with reproductive
capacity increasing with age and size.
Lingcod are voracious predators (“ophiodon” means
“snake-toothed”), feeding on other fish, crabs and
octopi. Juveniles feed on plankton and are sometimes preyed upon by
adult lingcod. Once settled as adults in their rocky habitat, lingcod
are sedentary, making them an easy target for commercial and sport