Alaska lingcod are an extraordinary sportfish. They attack bait and lures aggressively, they are both fearfully ugly and strangely handsome at the same moment, and they produce a snowy white fillet that rivals only halibut among the tastiest in the sea. Hook into a 30 pounder on a salmon rod and you’ll wonder who’s gonna win the ensuing tug-of-war.
Certain fish species are legal to use in southeast Alaska’s saltwaters for live bait. To quote from the southeast Alaska regulations, “Unless provided for in this section, fish taken under sport fishing regulations may not be used as bait, except:
- Herring, chum salmon, pink salmon, and whitefish may be used as bait, and:
- Species for which bag limits, seasons, or other regulatory methods and means are not provided in sport fishing regulations, as well as:
- The head, tail, fins, closely trimmed skeleton, and viscera of legally taken sport fish, may be used as bait. Live herring and other species for which no seasonal or harvest limits are specified in sport fishing regulations may be used as live bait, except that live fish may not be used as bait for sport fishing in fresh water.”
Based on these criteria, greenling are legal to use as live bait in the saltwater when fishing for Alaska lingcod. In a two-day window in the middle of August, we recently brought at least ten lingcod to the surface using a greenling as bait. It was AMAZING! None of the lingcod were actually hooked, each came as a hitchhiker attached to one of their favorite meals.
Drifting over the rock piles in Yakutat Bay, our goal was to first hook a greenling. Once we brought one over the rail, rigged it up and sent it down, the action nearly instantaneous. The trick for the angler was to maintain bottom and get the greenling a few turns off the bottom to avoid snagging in the very grabby structure. Once there, gently jigging the greenling brought on the attack. Several times several lingcod came to the surface together. Often, a lingcod would let go halfway up, only to come right back and clamp on.
On one of the drops, a particularly big fish grabbed the bait. We thought Brian was fighting a giant Alaska lingcod. After an epic ten-minute battle, a 60-pound-plus halibut emerged from the cloudy depths, clamped down on the greenling. Like all the lingcod, that fish never felt the sting of the hook, as the greenling candy was enough to keep them latched on tight.
There’s something particularly natural being part of the big fish eating the little fish food chain.
Head out to Yakutat Lodge now and catch giant halibut, snarly lingcod, black rockfish and coho. Silvers are being caught in the Situk River and in Yakutat Bay. There’s plenty of room and great fishing to be had.