Lingcod

Natural History

Lingcod are unique to the west coast of North America. They dwell on rocky reefs and ocean bottoms, in depths between 30 and 300 feet (9 to 100 m). Their color ranges from dark brown or black to blue or green. Their underbellies are lighter. A lingcod's coloration makes this ambush predator well camouflaged in its rocky hideaway. Lingcod rely on surprise to capture prey—and on their large mouths, which have 18 sharp teeth to hold their catch securely. Their small, pointed teeth are interspersed with large, fanglike teeth.

Like most bottom dwellers, lingcod are solitary fish and usually stray only a short distance from their rocky home base. Young lingcod prefer sandy or muddy bottoms in bays and inshore areas.

Conservation

Our Seafood Watch program rates lingcod as a sustainable seafood "Good Alternative." The population of lingcod on the U.S. West Coast has experienced long-term declines due to overfishing but appears to be stabilizing. About half of the lingcod that is caught by commercial fisheries is caught using bottom trawling a fishing method that results in considerable habitat damage. As a result, lingcod is not a "Best Choice" until measures are taken to minimize damage from trawling gear along their rocky habitats on the seafloor. For more details, visit the Seafood Watch section of our web site.

Cool Facts

The female usually produces between 60,000 and 500,000 eggs. The gelatinous egg mass weighs up to 15 pounds (7 kg) and measures 2.5 feet (76 cm) across. Raw lingcod flesh sometimes has a greenish color, but it's harmless. The flesh turns white when cooked. 

During spawning season, lingcod migrate into nearshore areas. The male arrives first and establishes a territory on a rocky substrate in strong water currents. As long as a month later, the female arrives and chooses a male partner, then swims over the site and deposits a layer of eggs. The male follows and deposits a layer of sperm. They repeat their layers until spawning is over, whereupon the female leaves. The male aggressively guards the egg mass for eight to 10 weeks until the eggs hatch. Males attack fish predators but allow sea urchins, sunflower stars and snails to feed on the eggs. While guarding eggs, lingcod have been known to attack humans.