Fish Talk: How It's Caught: Wild Alaskan Lingcod
Lingcod are one of our favorite whitefish to eat, and also one of our favorites to catch. We typically catch the bulk of our lingcod in May each year during a directed season. During this lingcod season, we use a fishing device called a “dinglebar,” which is basically a big weight that bounces on the bottom.
For the rig, you attach the dinglebar, which is a 5’ long steel bar that weighs right around 65 pounds, to the end of a spool of wire. At a point on the wire just above the dinglebar you attach the “train,” which is the main fishing line that all the jigs are attached to. The jigs weigh the line down, so as to keep it from snagging on the bottom as it’s towed along. You attach floats to the train above each jig to achieve neutral buoyancy. The train can be from 6 to 18 fathoms long and carry from 5-20 jigs. How long you make the train depends on the terrain you’re fishing – the smoother the bottom, the longer the train you can run. However, lingcod are best caught around rock piles and pinnacles, so the longer the train you run in those dense fishy areas, the greater the risk you take on losing gear to the bottom.
This picture illustrates the general idea of lingcod fishing.
When you’re towing the dinglebar, you do it very slowly and always have a hand on the wire that’s attached to the dinglebar. You’ll be able to feel the bottom as every minute or so you’ll let more wire out to just touch the bottom and then pull it up a fathom or two. The reason you don’t just drag it on the bottom is two-fold. Firstly, you’ll most likely lose your entire rig if the dinglebar snags on a rock that sticks up from the bottom. Secondly, you should always try to minimize your impact on the habitat and the ecosystem in the ocean, and minimizing bottom contact is a small way you can do that. To be sure, even if you drug your dinglebar along the bottom without lifting it once for an entire season, you’d do just a tiny fraction of the damage the large trawlers do in a single day, but in our eye every effort to do right by the ocean that has done so right by us counts.
After you feel a few fish have been hooked, you’ll haul the whole rig to the surface, land the lingcod on deck and send the rig back down. While you’re focused on hooking and landing fish, the crew is immediately bleeding and dressing the fish for safe storage in our fluffy ice bed until these beautiful fish are unloaded to the Catch Sitka docks for final processing into the beautiful vacuum packed portions that land on your doorstep.
Stay tuned next month for more Fish Talk, we will be exploring Salmon Trolling Season!
If you liked this check out Fish Talk: How It’s Caught: Wild Alaskan Halibut & Sablefish (Black Cod). For great recipes be sure to check out our Recipe Box! Pro Tip: You can search any species using the magnifying glass in the menu to bring up recipes and more!