After spawning earlier in the year, male Lingcod in the Pacific Northwest are now out in force protecting their nests from predators. Females leave the chore of watching their unhatched eggs to the males, who will aggressively chase away any threats. Divers who have gotten too close to a nest have reported receiving a warning “bump” by a protective Lingcod parent. These can be some of the largest fish you’ll see in Puget Sound. Smaller Lingcod range between 10-15 pounds, while the largest examples are at Edmonds Underwater Park where 50-70 pounds is not unusual. Other good dive sites for viewing include Saltwater State Park and Alki Seacrest Park (Cove 2).
Neither a Ling nor a Cod, Lingcod, Ophiodon elongatus, is closely related to another fish found only in the Northwest, the Kelp Greenling. Lingcod are found along the Pacific Northwest from Oregon to Alaska, divers can usually observe juveniles in the shallower eel grass beds while adults prefer rocky bottom areas. I’m constantly amazed by the coloring variation in Lingcod, with black/white, blue/purple, and tan/brown 3 of the most common color themes.
Once the Lingcod eggs have successfully hatched, the larvae enter a pelagic stage, where they float about, until late May or early June, when they find a eel grass bed and live as juveniles. After maturing, the young adults move to the rocky bottom areas. Lingcod at all stages eat a wide variety of prey, including Rockfish, Red octopus, and smaller Giant pacific octopus. More than once we have observed a Lingcod with tentacles coming out of its gills from a freshly devoured Red octopus. Lingcod themselves can also be preyed upon by Harbor seals and California sea lions. With its high reproductive rate, Lingcod are not considered threatened at this time.
With Lingcod nesting season here, now is a good time to book your dive tour and see these amazing creatures in their Pacific Northwest habitat.