PRIMARY FISHING METHOD:
Bycatch of trawl and longline fisheries.
• Grayish flesh color and blood spots indicate bruising and mishandling.
• A great alternative to halibut—at a lesser cost!
It may not be a cod or a ling, but a lingcod is an exceptionally good-eating fish, a favorite of West Coast chefs, many of whom prefer it to halibut. Lingcod probably were named by European fishermen who thought the long, thin fish looked like their native ling and had the white flesh of a cod. Equipped with an impressive set of teeth and a huge mouth, lingcod are exceptionally voracious feeders, who are normally found near rock piles and kelp beds.
Found from Alaska to California, lingcod are actually members of the greenling family (Hexagrammidae), which includes sculpins and scorpionfish.
Although lingcod can reach 90 pounds, the average size in the commercial catch runs between 10 and 15 pounds.
Lingcod are caught mainly as a bycatch of other fisheries, although there is a small directed fishery in the summer in Southeast Alaska, where fishermen drag “dingle bars” (a solid steel bar with jigs trailing behind it) just off the bottom.
Catches of lingcod have dropped significantly this decade, due to pressure from both commercial and sport fishermen. Currently, annual catches are less than 4,000 tons, more than half of which comes from British Columbia. Off the West Coast and Alaska, about 1,000 tons of lingcod are landed.
The quality—and the price—of lingcod will vary depending upon the method of harvest. The best lingcod is caught by hook-and-line boats that bleed and ice their fish immediately after it is caught.
Since the Alaska and B.C. halibut and sablefish fisheries went to an ITQ system in 1995, the availability and quality of lingcod caught as a bycatch in these fisheries has improved, as longliners now have the time and incentive to take care of lingcod and sell it fresh.
As a rule, trawl-caught lingcod is seldom bled, however if the fish is chilled and delivered in a few days its quality will still be fine, although its flesh will not be as white as a longline fish that was promptly bled.
Some lingcod, especially smaller fish caught near shore, will have an odd bluish-green tinge to their fish. Although it can be alarming to consumers, this fish will cook up just as white as any lingcod.
In the kitchen, lingcod are a very versatile fish, with a beautiful white, flaky flesh. In the Pacific Northwest, lingcod is the favorite fish to fry in the best fish n’ chip restaurants, although sourcing fresh lingcod year round can present significant challenges at times.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ophiodon elongatus
MARKET NAME(S): Lingcod, ling.
To 90 lbs., but typically 10-20 lbs.
Whole to H&G: 62-74%; whole to skinless, pinbone-in fillet 27-32%; H&G to skinless, pinbone-in fillet 45-50%.
PRODUCT FORMS: FRESH:
FRESH & FROZEN: H&G fish (collar-on), skinless, pinbone-in fillets, pinbone-out fillets and portions.
STORAGE & HANDLING:
Fresh lingcod held at 32°F in ice has a shelf life of up to seven days. Frozen H&G and fillets held at -5 to -15°F will last a year.
This lean, white fish is similar to halibut in its culinary attributes. The firm, snow-white flesh is delicious in fish and chips, and is quite popular along the West Coast. It is also good baked with a topping such as a sun-dried tomato sauce. Ling Cod can also be grilled with excellent results.