The Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) is a species of fish that belongs to the greenling family Hexagrammidae. It is the only member in its genus Ophiodon. It is native to the North American west coast from Shumagin Islands in the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. The center of abundance occurs off the coast of British Columbia. They are found on the sea bottom with most individuals occupying rocky areas at depths of 30 to 330 feet. Tagging studies have shown that these fish are non-migratory. Though not closely related to either ling or cod, the name “˜lingcod”˜ originated because it resembles both fish.
Adults have been measured up to 60 inches in length (47 inches being more common) and weighed up to 130 pounds. It is a spotted fish with various sahdes of gray. Adult males can be identified externally from females by the presence of a small, conical papilla (nipple-like protrusion) behind the anal vent. Females reach sexual maturity at 3 to 5 years of age, and males 2 years. Both sexes have the same growth rate until age 2, when the females begin growing faster than the males. Males stop growing at about 8 years old and females stop at around 12 to 14 years old. The maximum lifespan of lingcod is about 20 years for females, and 14 years for males.
Lingcod migrate to near shore spawning grounds beginning in October. The males migrate first, and establish nesting sites in strong current areas in rock crevices or on ledges. Spawning occurs from December to March, and females leave the nest immediately after depositing the eggs. Males aggressively defend the nest from predators until the eggs hatch in March-April. The young settle to the sea bottom in late May-June. They inhabit eel grass beds at first, then move to sandy areas that are not typical for most adult lingcod. As they age, they move on to the rocky areas and occur in deeper water.
Lingcod or ravenous predators, feeding on invertebrates and many species of fish, including herring and Pacific Hake. Their favorite food is small octopus. They will also rapidly devour large rockfish. Adult lingcod have very few predators, and are mainly vulnerable to marine mammals such as sea lions and harbor seals. Lingcod are also a popular food fish, and is prized by anglers.