About Our Lingcod
Ophiodon elongatus earned the name “Lingcod” through its resemblance to both ling and cod fish, while it is in fact closely related to neither. Lingcod are a Pacific greenling found all along the North American west coast, from the Gulf of Alaska down to Baja, California. Along the way they are also known as cultus cod, blue cod, bluefish, green cod, buffalo cod, and white cod. Lingcod generally occupy rocky areas at depths of 30 to 330 ft. The females average at just over 2 feet in length, while the males average several inches shorter. The largest lingcod on record (caught in Alaska) was 5 feet long and weighed 82 pounds. Lingcod generally live over 20 years, while the oldest lingcod on record was 36. Their large head and earns them the nickname “buckethead” and conceals 18 large sharp teeth. They are reputed for being voracious predators, feeding on anything they can catch, including invertebrates, octopi, and many species of fish, such as herring and salmon. Their backs are usually dark gray or brown with tones of green and copper-colored clusters of spotting. Around 20% of lingcod have blue-green or turquoise shimmery flesh--an attribute that cooks out and results in the same mild-tasting, medium-firm, white, flakey meat that makes lingcod a popular eating fish.
Alaska Select’s Lingcod
Along the Alaskan coast, lingcod begin to spawn in December, with peak spawning from mid-January to mid-March. During this time male and female lingcod take to rocky reefs with strong tidal currents where they deposit fertilized egg nests in crevices. The number of eggs produced increases with the age and size of the mature female. The females leave the males guarding the egg nests for 5 to 11 weeks, until they hatch. Lingcod reproduction is dependent on these guardians, whose overly-aggressive behavior can further provoke predation from seals and sea lions. Unguarded egg nests are vulnerable to complete annihilation within 48 hours by rockfish, starfish, sculpins, kelp greenling, and cod. Lingcod are fairly sedentary, usually making a specific reef home for life.
According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, more than 80% of the lingcod caught in the U.S. is a "Best Choice" in regards to sustainability, while some areas along the Pacific Northwest Coast have previously been overfished. NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage U.S. lingcod fisheries south of British Columbia, while the State of Alaska manages both state and federal waters in Alaska through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commercial Fisheries Regulations. Fishing methods for lingcod range from bottom trawls to midwater trawls, and trolling lines to longlines. The concern that deems lingcod fisheries in Alaska a “Good Alternative” is the high percentage of bycatch (non-targeted fish) of migrating King Salmon.
With this in mind, Alaska Select’s lingcod is caught via hook and line--a specific method called “dinglebar fishing.” The dinglebar system is dedicated to highly selective, targeted commercial fishing, and produces an estimation of less than 3% bycatch (mostly yelloweye) and aids in the mindful handling of targeted lingcod.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:
“The actual dinglebar is a 75 pound steel bar that is attached to a troll wire and has a single horizontal spread of about 10 jigs that's secured about 3 feet above the dinglebar. The fisherman does not use trolling poles (as he would in fishing for salmon) but instead the trolling wire runs directly off the block and into the water. This allows the fisher to keep a hand on the wire and get an actual feel for biting lingcod or if the dinglebar is hitting bottom. The lingcod are landed quickly, evaluated for legal size, then dressed and iced within minutes. The combination of these factors produces a premium quality lingcod.”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commercial Fisheries Regulations protect lingcod from overharvest through conservative management. “The current management approach is to assure sufficient fish are present in the spawning population to ensure future recruitment. This is done in three ways:
- Protect spawning female lingcod and nest-guarding male lingcod. Sport and commercial fisheries are closed during the spawning and nest-guarding periods.
- Allow fish to spawn at least once before being subject to harvest. Minimum size limits are established for both sport and commercial fisheries to protect immature fish from being harvested.
- Restrict catch limits. The sport fishery is restricted by daily bag and possession limits. Commercial fisheries are restricted by catch and bycatch quotas.”
Health Benefits of Alaskan Lingcod
Lingcod is rich in nutrients such as omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamin A, B12, niacin, selenium, amino acids, and potassium.
- Omega-3 fatty acids provide cardiovascular benefits such as preventing erratic heart rhythms, aiding blood flow inside arteries where clots can cause heart attacks, and balancing the ratio of good High Density Lipoprotein (also preventing atherosclerosis). Omega-3s reduce triglycerides, a potentially harmful fat in our bloodstream. Omega-3s also reduce inflammation, which is a key component in the processes that turns cholesterol into artery-clogging plaques.
- Vitamin A is the umbrella term for several fat-soluble compounds. These compounds are vital to many processes in the body, such as the maintenance of healthy vision, immune system functions, organ upkeep, and growth and development during pregnancy.
- Vitamin B12 helps lower levels of homocysteine, reducing damage to artery walls.
- Niacin (Vitamin B-3) is essential to the entire body’s functioning. Niacin can help lower cholesterol, ease and even prevent arthritis, and boost brain function.
- Selenium acts as a powerful antioxidant, supporting liver function, in turn detoxifying and clearing potentially harmful compounds such as pesticides, drugs, and heavy metals from the body. Selenium reduces risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, combating premature aging and risk of stroke.
- Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, needed for the development of tissues in the body, including muscles. They are the precursors to hormones, immune response, repair, and other molecular essentials for health.
- Potassium is a necessary mineral for muscle movement, a healthy nervous system, and balanced water retention in the body.
Up-to-date nutritional value of Alaskan Lingcod (2019), based on a 3 oz (⅔ cup, or 85g) serving size:
Culinary Profile of Lingcod
Lingcod is celebrated for its rich yet mild flavor and smooth flesh and is often compared to halibut. It is extremely versatile to cook with and can be baked, broiled, fried, grilled, sauteed, steamed, smoked or made into fish and chips. When lingcod is dressed immediately on the water then vacuum-packed and flash frozen (just the one time) as it is with Alaska Select, it can be enjoyed as sushi, in which case it is known as "kinmutsu." For those who are new to lingcod, the blue-green tint of the meat is normal (though inconsistent) and is not an indication of quality. The color cooks out completely, leaving a mild-tasting, tender, medium-firm white piece of fish with large, moist flakes.