Creature Feature: Lingcod

Two color variations of lingcod. The green variation sometimes has turquoise colored flesh, though biologists have yet to determine the cause. The blue-green tint disappears during cooking, and the fish tastes the same regardless of coloration.
Two color variations of lingcod. The green variation sometimes has turquoise colored flesh, though biologists have yet to determine the cause. The blue-green tint disappears during cooking, and the fish tastes the same regardless of coloration.

Lingcod may be found statewide off California. This fish lives at or near the bottom, in a wide range of habitats including rocky areas and kelp beds, especially where there is strong tidal movement. They occur most abundantly in water shallower than 350 ft., but will often go into deeper water and have been caught as deep as 2,700 ft. off southern California.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Generally dark brown, but varies from blue-green to red-brown
  • Many spots and blotches on the upper part of the body
  • Body and head elongate
  • Head conical
  • Mouth large with many sharp teeth

Life History & Other Notes
Although young lingcod feed primarily on shrimps and other crustaceans, adults eat fishes, squid, and octopus.

Spawning usually takes place from December through March. The large, adhesive egg masses are often laid in rocky crevices on sub-tidal reefs. The male lingcod guards the eggs until they hatch. A 45-inch female can lay an average of half a million eggs in a single season.

Lingcod are easily caught using standard rockfish rigs baited with anchovies or squid pieces. Larger bait such as live squid, mackerel, sanddabs, or small rockfishes will often produce very large lingcod (note that any rockfish caught and used for bait count towards that day’s RCG Complex bag and/or possession limit).

Lingcod teeth and gillrakers are very sharp and can cause serious injury. Pick up legal-sized fish safely by grasping the eye sockets with one hand, and the tail with the other. Always net undersized fish to return them safely to the water.


 Lingcod Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Ophiodon elongatus

Other Common Names: green ling, slinky linky, lingasaur

Range & Habitat: Statewide over rocky reefs and kelp beds

Length & Weight: To 45 in. and 54 lb.

Life Span: To 25 years

Diet & Suggested Bait/Lures: Feeds on all types of fishes, squid, octopus. Try live anchovies, sardines, sanddabs, or squid for bait, or metal or plastic jigs.


Excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book.

Single copies of the book are available to California residents free of charge by emailing a request to publications@wildlife.ca.gov