Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus)

Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus)

A Pacific marine species, the lingcod belongs to the family Hexagrammidae. Its name is misleading because it is not a true cod. A local term for lingcod is “cultus cod”; the word cultus is an Indian term meaning “false.” The lingcod is an important and highly prized commercial and sportfish.

Identification

The lingcod has a large mouth, large pectoral fins, a smooth body, and a long, continuous dorsal fin divided by a notch into spiny and soft parts. Adults have large heads and jaws and long, pointed teeth. Juveniles have slender bodies. The lingcod’s coloring is usually brown or gray, with blotches outlined in orange or blue, but is closely associated with habitat.

Size

Lingcod may grow to 50 inches or longer. Males are smaller than females, usually reaching no longer than 3 feet in length or 20 pounds in weight. Basically mature by 8 years, the male will weigh about 10 pounds and the female about 15. Commercial catches for lingcod sometimes include fish of 50 to 60 pounds. The all-tackle record is 76 pounds, 9 ounces.


Life history/Behavior

The spawning season is in the winter, from December through February, when the eggs are released in large pinkish-white masses into crevices in rocks. Egg masses can contain more than a half million eggs and are frequently found in the intertidal zone. The male protects the eggs, which hatch in 1 to 2 months. The young stay at the surface for 3 to 4 months before dropping to the bottom.

Food and feeding habits

Adults feed on herring, flounder, cod, hake, greenling, rockfish, squid, crustaceans, and small lingcod. Juveniles consume small crustaceans and fish.

Other Names

cultus cod, blue cod, buffalo cod, green cod, ling; Finnish: vihersimppu; French: terpuga; Japanese: ainame; Portuguese: lorcha; Swedish: grönfisk.

Distribution

The lingcod occurs in North American waters from Southern California to Alaska but is most abundant in the colder waters of the north.

Habitat

Lingcod inhabit colder waters in intertidal zone reefs and kelp beds that have strong tidal currents. They prefer depths from 2 to more than 70 fathoms over rock bottom.
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