The season in Area 14 and adjacent waters for lingcod and rockfish closes to the recreational fishery on Sept. 30. If you are reading this on Friday the 28th you have two days left to target these excellent eating, fun to catch fish.
Fishing for bottomfish is often associated with salmon fishing and they are considered secondary to the goal of catching a chinook, coho etc. Sometimes I think this is shortsighted because if you put the bottomfish on the list first and then go salmon fishing you usually have a successful day on the water as far as bringing home fresh fish is concerned.
Pictured with this column are two prime lingcod taken about a month ago while fishing out of Pacific Village with Charley Vaughan. The large one weighed 18 pounds and the smaller one weighed 12 – nice fish. We were not targeting lingcod or rockfish, but we were using jigs in fishing schools of bait that we hoped would hold some feeding salmon.
Just after we got started I got into a nice kelp greenling and a short time later the big one attached itself to the greenling and Charley put the net under it and then things got interesting. When it realized it had a problem it almost tore the net apart.
Not everybody spends much time looking for bottomfish over relatively flat shoals in depths varying from 30 to 100 feet. Most bottom fishing is done over rocky shoals and outcrops at depths varying from 20 to 300 feet.
I have a suggestion on how you may improve your success on flat shoals, because it is our experience that they do hold good numbers of lingcod, particularly at this time of the year. During early fall and right into winter, lingcod migrate from deep waters into relatively shallow water to carry out their spawning cycles.
It follows that the last two days of the season in our waters can give up surprises with prime lingcod in the 20-pound range. At this time of the year it is possible to get into very large lingcod – like 30 to 50 pounds. I would respectfully suggest that if you hook one of these big fish it should be released back into the water because these large fish are egg-bearing females.
Jigs work well when targeting lingcod or rockfish. Lingcod like big mouthfuls of anything when they are feeding and if you look at their teeth and big mouths it is easy to understand why. When fishing in waters in excess of 100 feet, large jigs in the four to five ounce range work well.
When you use large herring it is a good idea to use wire leaders because lingcod teeth can cut nylon leaders. When fishing with herring, wait for the second tug and steady pressure before you set the hook because with the first tug the bait is not inside the mouth.
Firm, white fillets are the results of properly bled and chilled bottomfish. Prior to the popularity of halibut fishing, lingcod were considered the supreme bottomfish by local recreational anglers. They are still high on the list of many anglers who use them for creating excellent fish and chips.
Rockfish conservation areas are important tools in the management of bottomfish. We have eight of these areas in Area 14 waters and it is a good idea to be familiar with their location.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.