Lingcod provide welcome challenge for veteran anglers

  • By Wayne Kruse Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, April 30, 2014 6:34pm
  • Sports

This weekend is the latest installment in my 50-year love affair with lingcod fishing, and I can’t wait to engage in some rod-breaking, gut-busting combat with the ugly suckers.

I’ve bummed a ride with Gary Krein, the “Mayor of Possession Bar,” and we’ll stop along the way to the bar to fill the live tank with sanddabs, sculpins and/or herring, then start hitting the GPS-marked holes, rock piles, dropoffs and other spots where lings like to lie in ambush.

Part of the attraction of this fishery, which opened today, is the hands-on aspect. In a world of salmon-oriented, stick-your-rod-in-the-holder-and-sit, it’s refreshing to actually have to think like a fish and work your tackle. It’s a balancing act, trying to keep your bait very close to the bottom in a jumble of rocky cover without snagging and losing setup after setup, while at the same time trying not to hold your gear so high that it drifts over the heads of your quarry.

And then there are the lings themselves — gritty, blue-collar sluggers with an attitude. They often come to the boat with jaws clamped on your bait, hooked or not. That’s dedication to lunch, baby!

Most fishermen, of course, don’t have Krein’s list of GPS coordinates. But there are a lot of spots on the bar that hold lings, and it’s only a matter of putting in your time, drifting and watching your electronics, to find them. Live bait on 6/0 circle hooks and 3 ounces of ball sinker at the swivel is the prime setup. Dead bait, such as squid or large herring, also works well.

If you have to go to artificials, Krein said he prefers darts to lead-head plastics or other jigs. To keep from losing a bunch of them, replace the rock-grabbing treble hooks on the bottom end of the lure with Shimano two-hook “Stinger” rigs attached to the upper end of the dart with a split ring. Jigs and darts, he said, are particularly good for cabezon.

According to Krein, there are a few lings on what’s left of the artificial reef south of Hat Island, and surprisingly good fishing along marina breakwaters and other rock rip-rap at many spots in the north Sound.

The best lingcod fishing within a reasonable distance of this area has always been in the San Juan Islands, and still is. Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said there’s an almost unlimited rocky ling habitat in all parts of the islands, but said a few of the most popular spots are Lawson Reef, Deception Pass (east side on the incoming tide; west side on the ebb), the Biz Point wall, north Burrows Island, Allen Island, the south end of Lopez Island, Cattle Point and the east side of Blakely Island.

John likes bait, but also fishes jigs successfully and recommends 3- to 8-ounce lead-head double tails in black, root beer, white or chartreuse. The hot item this year, however, is the KGM 6-inch swimmer tail, either the swim shad or the new and smokin’ sanddab model, John said.

The most important change in lingcod regulations this season is an alteration to the 120-foot depth rule. The regulation prohibiting ling fishing in more than 120 feet of water was put in place several years ago to help protect scarce rockfish species, but problems in enforcement arose with anglers working halibut, legally, at depths greater than that. So the rule has been changed to allow lings at more than 120 feet, but ONLY on those days and in those areas where halibut fishing is open — roughly 11 days this spring.

The slot limit for lings is 26 to 36 inches.

Shrimp correction

State shrimp manager Mark O’Toole corrected (diplomatically) a column on spot shrimp fishing that ran here last week. Hood Canal will be open to recreational shrimping on Saturday, Wednesday, May 10 and May 21, and the hours will be, as always, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the only shrimping area with those particular hours. And the canal does, indeed, lose a day of shrimping this year, but it’s because of a lower quota, not the extreme minus tide.

Eagles Derby

The recent Stanwood Eagles Blackmouth Derby broke the 100-participant barrier, with 103 anglers turning out. Some 27 fish were weighed, ranging from 3 to 20 pounds, and the weather was great, according to spokesman Ed Keller. First place and $2,317 went to Bill Doane at 20.13 pounds; second and $1,030 to Bill Hayes (yes, that Bill Hayes), at 16.07 pounds; third and $772 to Jason Jensen at 15.14 pounds; fourth and $515 to Glen Helton at 14.13 pounds; and fifth, $257, to Chick Crane at 13.12 pounds. The winning fish was caught at Greenbank, second through fourth at Onamac, and fifth off Camano Head.

Lake Tye Kids’ Derby

Coordinator Gary Bee of the Sky Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited said the annual Kids’ Fishing Day at Lake Tye in Monroe on Sunday drew a crowd despite less than welcoming weather conditions. The first-place rainbow weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces and was caught by Isabella Deane of Monroe. Second place, at 6-9, went to Aiden Oort from Everett, and third, at 5-13, to Keegan Locking from Monroe.

Bee said the wind was blowing hard by the time the adult derby came around, but 60 entrants gave it a shot and Dan Rasch came out on top at 3 pounds, 12 ounces.

The tagged fish was not caught, but Bee said it’s still worth $50 if and when it hits the bank. Contact him at

More youth fishing

A free kids’ fish-in is scheduled from 8-11 a.m. on Saturday at Jennings Park in Marysville. The event is for ages 5-12 and is sponsored by John’s Sporting Goods, Marysville Kiwanis and Marysville Parks and Rec. Tackle and bait will be available for those without their own, and food donations will be accepted for a local food bank.

Bass tourney

The 35th running of the two-day Potholes Open Bass Tournament drew 109 teams last weekend, and the team of Eidson and Doucet from Moses Lake set a tourney record with two six-fish limits weighing a total of 53.8 pounds. Most of the fish entered were smallmouth, according to MarDon Resort owner Mike Meseberg, and taken on flippin’ jigs, Senkos, and spinner baits. One outstanding smallmouth of 6.73 pounds was caught by a tournament competitor, Meseberg said.

For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at

More in Sports

Local soccer players sacrifice to play with Sounders Academy

The talented youngsters say playing with the Academy has made them better people as well as players.

Paxton, not Felix, deserves Opening Day start for Mariners

Could Seattle’s marriage to the longtime star pitcher be heading for the rocks?

Q&A with Shorecrest’s Julia Strand

Two years ago, Julia Strand was a key player for the Shorecrest… Continue reading

Silvertips travel to Spokane in matchup of in-form teams

Everett has lost once in regulation in its past 19 games, and the Chiefs have won three straight.

Pairings announced for regional basketball playoffs

Lynnwood and Stanwood girls face each other Saturday at Jackson High School

The Herald’s Athletes of the Week for Feb. 11-17

THE HERALD’S PREP ATHLETES OF THE WEEK FOR FEB. 11-17 Mason Phillips,… Continue reading

Marysville Pilchuck boys basketball exceeding expectations

In a preseason Wesco 3A coaches poll, the Marysville Pilchuck boys basketball… Continue reading

Stanwood boys basketball relying on post production

The play of Stanwood boys basketball players Matt Vail and Mitch Jones… Continue reading

Young King’s girls basketball team builds foundation

Dan Taylor teaches freshmen at King’s High School. This year he coached… Continue reading

Most Read