Of all the fish we catch in the ocean off the Pacific Northwest, Northern California and Alaska, none are more aggressive and territorial than lingcod. The ferocious predators prey almost exclusively on small rockfish.Taking advantage of their favorite food source, we use what I call “lingcod candy” when targeting lings. It is perhaps the most effective bait for tricking lingcod into biting.
Each day when I fillet my customers’ catch, I save the rib bones and belly meat. While most anglers discard this boney scrap of meat, I marinate them for use the next day as lingcod bait. I will also put some away in the freezer for future trips.
Making lingcod candy is quick and easy. I simply place the rib bone scraps in a plastic bag and cover the baits with a generous amount of Pautzke Nectar. Red is my favorite, but yellow and purple also work well. I also add several squirts of Pautzke Liquid Krill. The Nectar adds an enticing salmon scent to the rockfish flesh. Lingcod, halibut and other ocean species will feast on salmon anytime they get a chance. The Nectar also creates a potent scent trail that helps draw lings and other fish to the bait.
Along with the rockfish bellies, I also add several cut up raw prawns. These I use for tipping rockfish jigs and flies. The prawns soak up the Nectar and Liquid Krill scent, drawing the rockfish to the bottom fishing rigs and triggering aggressive bites.
Lingcod like rocky structure, especially the base of rock pile and reefs where they hide and wait for small rockfish to swim by. Generally along the Oregon Coast they are in water from 50 to 120 feet deep, although they can be found much deeper.I target lingcod and rockfish with a simple bottom fishing rig that includes two grubs or shrimp flies, and a 4- to 6-ounce leadhead with a large grub or twin tail, which is tipped with a piece of lingcod candy.
The bait is lowered to the bottom, then slowly jigged.To avoid losing a bunch of gear, start your drift at the shallowest point of the reef, and drift into deeper water. Starting deep and drifting shallow will result in instant hang ups. Once a lingcod is hooked, slowly reel in without a bunch of jerks or rod pumps. Anytime you change the angle of a jig you risk losing the fish.
Doubling up on rockfish
The lingcod candy on the bottom jig adds a bunch of scent to your rig. The Liquid Krill is important for attracting rockfish, which feed heavily on krill and small shrimp in the spring and early summer. By adding the raw shrimp marinated with the lingcod candy to the shrimp flies or small plastic grubs, you will catch more rockfish and limit out faster. Use pieces of raw prawns cut to the size of a fingernail.
Editor’s Note: Capt. Andy Martin is a full-time Oregon fishing guide and charter boat captains. His websites are wildriversfishing.com and brookingsfishing.com.