OUTDOORS REPORT: Ling dance to jigs

Nicole Tucker hugs the ling. (Photo by Rick Beasley)

DEPOE BAY — Blame paternal instinct on the behemoth ling cod hitting the party boat decks Saturday, according to Capt. David Peterson of the charter vessel “Hot Pursuit” (541-765-2545).

“The females head toward shore and lay egg in the rocks, which the males aggressively protect,” said Peterson after returning March 10 with a boatload of monster lings, some stretching the tape to 40 inches or more. “They’ll lunge at anything, but that’s okay if you catch one. There’s four or five more defending the same nest.”

Sheila Johanss, an ODFW fish checker at the Dockside Charters cleaning station, remarked that ling cod are among the few game fish that lay eggs. Most other commonly-caught rockfish are live-bearing, she said.

“The ling cod are more aggressive this time of year, and tend to bite anything in their territory,” she observed.

Much of the action is taking place off Spanish Head at Lincoln City in 100 to 120-feet of water, using lead-head plastic jigs. Steve Hockett of West Linn was reeling in a nice sea bass when he caught a 37-inch ling bummed a ride. The gape-jawed lings that go after a hooked fish are called “hitchhikers,” and they’re welcome aboard.

The lingcod daily bag limit is 2 fish, separate from the general marine fish bag limit, with a minimum size of 22 inches.

The deep-sea recreational fishery is open at all depths with a bag limit of 5 fish, plus a separate lingcod limit of 2 fish.

Meanwhile, local rivers are still producing winter steelhead, according to ODFW sources who said tackle was being tested on the Alsea River at Waldport. Expect more fish to show up with each rise in the river level from now through April. Bobber fishing with jigs or bait, drift fishing, and casting lures are all effective ways to catch these hard fighting fish.

Winter steelhead will continue to enter the Salmon River system through March until it closes on March 31. The Salmon River has no hatchery releases and is entirely a wild run.

On the Siletz River, winter steelhead fishing slowed down last week with the cold weather and low water. The extended forecast is calling for more dry conditions which will keep the river low and clear. Fish are still being caught every day and will likely improve as the thermometer rises.

Winter steelhead are also present in the Yaquina and Big Elk. No hatchery fish are released into the streams, so most fish caught are wild.

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