Ophiodon elongatus


    Cultus cod, Blue cod, Bluefish, Green cod, Buffalo cod, Greenling, White cod


    U.S. wild-caught from Alaska to California



Click the icons to learn more about each criteria



Lingcod hiding motionless on a reef in California Point Lobos State Reserve.

Lingcod hiding motionless on a reef in California Point Lobos State Reserve.


Lingcod is neither a ling nor a cod – it’s a member of the Pacific greenling family, Hexagrammidae, native only to North Pacific waters off the west coast of North America. This fish likely got its name from early settlers due to its similarity to European ling and its cod-like white, flaky flesh.

Off the West Coast, lingcod is harvested and managed along with over 80 groundfish species. In 1999, managers declared eight of these species overfished, including lingcod and several rockfish. In response, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries implemented strict catch limits, coastwide “Rockfish Conservation Areas,” and real-time management that closes fishing during the season if the total allowable catch is reached. Under these restrictions, all of these groundfish species are showing progress in their rebuilding plans. Lingcod were declared rebuilt in 2005, several years ahead of schedule thanks in part to the species’ high level of productivity.

However, since groundfish are harvested together, catch of more abundant species such as lingcod has been limited by the need to rebuild the still-overfished species. In early 2011, managers implemented a “catch share program” for the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery to address this issue. Under this program, managers divide the total allowable catch for the fishery into shares controlled by fishermen. Fishermen can catch their share whenever they want, allowing them the flexibility to better plan their season, fish during safer weather and when market prices for their catch are highest, and reduce bycatch of overfished species.

Looking Ahead

Fast-growing, short-lived species usually respond to management measures more quickly than slower growing, long-lived species. Lingcod grow quickly and begin to mature between the ages of 2 and 3, so each generation replaces aging or harvested fish in just a few years. As a result, fishery managers can alter fishing regulations and offset natural and human-induced fluctuations in the population size more quickly than for slower-growing fish, which is why lingcod was able to recover so quickly.



Lingcod are found from Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska down to Baja California, but they’re most abundant near British Columbia and Washington. When they’re first born, lingcod live near the surface of the ocean. Juveniles settle on nearshore sandy bottoms near eelgrass or kelp beds. Young adults and adults move to rocky habitats or seaweed, kelp, and eelgrass beds, where food is abundant. Male lingcod don’t generally move far from where they’re born, but researchers have found that immature fish sometimes migrate over 60 miles and females migrate seasonally to spawn.



Lingcod grow quickly, up to about 5 feet and 80 pounds, and can live more than 20 years. Males sexually mature when they are about 2 years old and almost 20 inches long; females are able to reproduce when they are 3 years old and 30 inches long. Females are fairly fertile – depending on their size, they can have 40,000 to 500,000 eggs. In late fall, male lingcod gather and become territorial over areas suitable for spawning, usually shallow, rocky habitats. Mature females are rarely seen at these spawning grounds. Scientists believe that the females briefly visit these spawning areas during winter and spring and only stay long enough to deposit their eggs in crevices and under ledges. Males guard these “nests” for 8 to 10 weeks until the eggs hatch. The presence of a male to guard the nest from predators appears essential for successful spawning – if something happens to the male, an unguarded nest can be decimated within 48 hours by feeding rockfish, starfish, sculpins, kelp greenling, and cod.

Larvae feed on zooplankton (tiny floating animals), including krill and larval crustaceans such as lobster and crab. Small juveniles eat shrimp and other small crustaceans. Larger juveniles feed on small fish such as herring. Adults are aggressive predators and feed primarily on bottom-dwelling fish (including smaller lingcod), squid, octopi, and crab. As noted above, lingcod are most vulnerable to predators during the egg and larval stages of their life. A variety of animals eat lingcod eggs. Larval and juvenile lingcod are preyed upon by fishes such as salmon, rockfish, and other lingcod. Marine mammals, sharks, and larger lingcod prey on juvenile and adult lingcod.



Nicknamed “buckethead,” the lingcod has a large head and mouth, and 18 large, sharp teeth. Its long body tends to narrow toward the tail. Lingcod are dark gray, brown, or a greenish color on the back with some copper-colored mottling or spotting along the upper back.



Scientists at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center analyze data from fishery monitoring, resource surveys, and biological investigations to provide estimates of the current status and future trends in abundance and productivity of lingcod.



According to the latest assessment (2009), the West Coast lingcod stock continues to be well over target population levels.

There are currently no sufficiently accurate estimates of the abundance of lingcod in Alaska.


Harvesting Lingcod

Lingcod support important commercial and recreational fisheries from the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California. In Alaska, lingcod have been harvested for centuries by the indigenous coastal populations of Southeast, Southcentral, and Western Alaska. Long ago, they fished for lingcod with hooks made of wood or bone, often ornately carved with spirit figures to attract the fish. The Makah Tribe and other coastal tribes have historically targeted another smaller member of the Hexagrammidae family, the kelp greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus) for subsistence and also used the smaller greenlings as live bait for the much larger lingcod. Today, lingcod are still fished for subsistence but are also harvested commercially in fisheries in Southeast Alaska. Alaskan fishermen use longlines, dinglebar gear, electronic jig robot gear, and handline jigs to harvest lingcod.

Off the West Coast, the fishery for lingcod has a long history. Lingcod was found in remains from archaeological sites dating back to 6200 BC on the central California coast from San Mateo to San Luis Obispo. More recently, the commercial fishery off California dates back more than a century, and the fishery off Washington and Oregon dates back nearly as far. Today, lingcod is harvested along with other groundfish species in the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery. They’re also harvested incidentally in bottom longline and salmon troll fisheries.



Who’s in charge? West Coast: NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council; Alaska: Department of Fish and Game

Current management: West Coast: Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan.

  • Limit on the minimum size of fish that can be harvested.
  • Limit on how much lingcod can be harvested in a fishing trip.
  • Certain seasons and areas are closed to fishing.
  • Gear restrictions to reduce bycatch and impacts on habitat.
  • Since January 2011, the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery has been managed under a trawl rationalization catch share program. Managers establish annual catch limits based on the health of each fish stock and then allocate a share of this catch limit to individual fishermen or groups of fishermen. Fishermen can decide how and when to catch their share – preferably when weather, markets, and business conditions are most favorable, allowing the fishery the flexibility to be more environmentally responsible, safer, more efficient, and more valuable. The goal is to allow fishermen to catch more of the healthy target stocks (such as lingcod) without increasing their harvest of overfished stocks.

Alaska: Department of Fish and Game Commercial Fisheries Regulations disclaimer The State of Alaska manages disclaimer the lingcod fishery in both state and federal waters of Alaska. To protect this species from overharvest, lingcod fisheries in Alaska are conservatively managed to ensure enough fish are left to reproduce and replenish the population. Management measures:

  • Close the fishery during spawning and nesting seasons to protect spawning female lingcod and nest-guarding male lingcod.
  • Limit the minimum size of fish that can be caught to protect immature fish from being harvested and allow fish to spawn at least once before being subject to harvest.
  • Restrict catch through catch and bycatch quotas.

Annual Harvest

Off the West Coast, landings have declined significantly over the past two decades, with commercial harvest of 174 metric tons (over 380,000 pounds) in 2010.

In Alaska, lingcod was mainly caught as bycatch in Southeast Alaska fisheries targeting other species. However, since 1987, the lingcod harvest has become increasingly important both in the directed fishery and as bycatch. The 2010 commercial harvest was 232 metric tons (over 500,000 pounds).



Lingcod is an important commercial species in Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska. Lingcod is also a highly valued sport fish – they’re extremely aggressive and put up an impressive fight. Once landed, they provide a tasty meal.



Off the West Coast, lingcod must be a certain size to be caught. There is also a limit on the number of lingcod fishermen can catch and keep per day. Due to high yelloweye rockfish bycatch in West Coast hook-and-line recreational fisheries, recreational harvest needs to be carefully managed. Further research is needed to determine whether there is a hook-and-line method that could catch lingcod without bycatch of yelloweye rockfish. Charterboat fishermen based out of Westport, Washington, experimented with targeting lingcod using large flatfish (over 8 inches) as bait and recorded significantly fewer encounters with yelloweye rockfish. Efforts like this should be further explored to ensure recreational fishermen can continue to catch lingcod, especially because of the important role recreational fisheries play in coastal communities.

In Alaska, the sport fishery is closed during lingcod spawning and nesting seasons. There are also minimum size limits and daily bag and possession limits. Unlike rockfish, lingcod do not have a swim bladder and have high post-release survival, which makes them an excellent species for practicing catch-and-release fishing.



This mild-flavored fish has a blue-green tint when raw (don’t worry—when cooked, the meat is snow-white). The meat is tender yet firm with large flakes.

The majority of lingcod sold in the United States comes from our fisheries off the West Coast and Alaska; the rest comes from Canada. The highest-quality lingcod is landed by hook-and-line boats that bleed and ice the fish immediately after harvest. (Seafood Business, 2011) disclaimer






Lingcod is a good source of low-fat protein and is high in vitamin B12 and selenium.

Servings 1
Serving Weight 100 g (raw)
Calories 128
Protein 22.08 g
Fat, total 3.71 g
Saturated fatty acids, total 0.69 g
Carbohydrate 0.48 g
Sugars, total 0.11 g
Fiber, total dietary 0.1 g
Cholesterol 66 mg
Selenium 35.2 mcg
Sodium 402 mg

Lingcod Table of Nutrition