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Thread: Where were all the ling cod last year?

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    Default Where were all the ling cod last year?

    I have fished several days per year since 2001 on a charter boat out of Valdez. Halibut has always been the target species with incidental (and welcome) catch of rockfish and lingcod on most trips. Depending on where exactly we are fishing (always in the gulf, never in the sound) we sometimes catch more or less of the incidental species. I would guess on average from 2001-2012 we caught about 8 lings a day on the boat. In 2013 we caught a total of 5 lings over the course of 6 days of fishing. It was like there were no lings in the sea since the fishing days in 2013 were in areas where we would have easily limited on ling in previous years.

    I know a Valdez fisherman who has a commercial harvest permit for ling and asked him about his experience last year. He didn't tell me exactly how many he caught but he did tell me that in three trips so far he had caught so few lings that he wasnt even close to breaking even and wasnt sure he was going to go out again. This conversation was in late July so I am not sure if he went back out in August and if so if the ling catch improved.

    Did anyone else notice a major decrease in ling last year in the gulf of Alaska outside of hinchinbrook and montague? Anyone have any ideas what the cause was/is? I have noticed 2 changes in recent years on my trips. Way more whales (fin whales, orcas, and others) seem to be present on the fishing grounds. I have also noticed an increase in commercial ling fishing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by safari View Post
    I have also noticed an increase in commercial ling fishing.
    Lingcod are a slow growing species, if the commercial boats happen to fish through the area you will certainly notice a down turn for a while.

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    Member breausaw's Avatar
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    Within a couple of hours last year we pulled 3 nice legal size Lings in Western PWS , unfortunately it was May so they went back; never made it back to that spot during Ling season. We fished Hinchinbrook area of Eastern PWS the latter part of the season with no luck landing any additional Lings. For me catching Lings seems to be associated with luck of the draw.
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    I never seem to have a hard time catching them if you get in way closer to rocks (adjacent to deep water) than you feel comfortable with. As Jay pointed out, it doesn't hurt to have some luck too as I caught one last year just outside of Day Care Bay that was very large and in very deep water. I don't know what it was doing there as we were in our not very good halibut spot. I seem to do well for lings at Knight Island.

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    2 years ago I went to take some reds into the processor at Whittier and outside the store, sitting in wheelbarrows, were a pile of lings. They sat outside in the wb's for a couple hours. There were 7 wheelbarrows full of them. It was July 2nd. I speculate that they were commercial fish, something about one guy saying that those wb's were just a small part of their catch.

    I thought that Lings were pretty fast growing? - Say in comparison to Yelloweye and halibut.

    We did catch one last summer and one the summer before. I don't think that there is any way that ADFG can afford to "count" ling populations.

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    We went two days last year in August- on day one we caught 5 legal we kept and 2 sub legal that went back. Fishing the same area on day two we didn't hook any. Captain said we did better on Lings than he'd seen earlier in the year.

    Day one we caught a huge number of chicken halibut in the 10-20 pound range. Day two we caught fewer halibut but the average size was 30-40 pounds and we boated 3 over a 100. Maybe the Lings were running with (or eating) the smaller halibut or simply feeding on the same stuff.

    Don't know but the consensus among folks was that Lings were down this year.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bullelkklr View Post

    I thought that Lings were pretty fast growing? - Say in comparison to Yelloweye and halibut.

    Size increases rapidly during the first years of life. Throughout this period, both sexes display similar growth patterns. However, by about age 4, female lingcod begin to grow faster than the males. The maximum age of lingcod reported is 25 years. The largest reported fish caught was 60 inches long (150 cm) and weighed 85 pounds (32 kg). Adult lingcod are voracious predators and eat almost anything, including other lingcod. Results of tagging studies have indicated the majority of lingcod are fairly sedentary and do not wander far from their home reef.

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    Quote Originally Posted by safari View Post
    ...areas where we would have easily limited on ling in previous years.
    There's a lot of your answer right there.

    It's easy to fish lings out if you keep going back and hitting the same spot. A charter boat hitting the same spot day after day? Guess what. Add several boats to the pic, and guess what? Add a lot of the boats to the pic, and boom. I wonder what happened to the lings....

    We have a lot of small spots that hold a few ling. But we only hit any of them once a year. And we generally never take more than two from any one spot. Just keep on moving and let them rest. A few of the spots folks saw us land a ling, and started hitting it hard. They're now completely off my list for lings, cuzz there are none there.

    Easy to point your finger at commercial fishermen, while hard to look in the mirror. There's no commercial fishing for lings in our area, but there's no shortage of individuals and charters that are proud to take limits from a spot. Same answer.

    We catch the lings we want, but we keep our yaps shut, and we don't go there if there are any other boats within sight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bullelkklr View Post
    I don't think that there is any way that ADFG can afford to "count" ling populations.

    Actually, there is a ling study going on in PWS right now. Its not ADF&G though, I think its more of a private study by a group out of Cordova. They have tagged a good number of ling in the sound and there are several sets of submerged buoys that track their travels in and out of the sound. I know that there are underwater buoys/sensors in port Gravina, the Montigue Straight, and in the Hinchinbrook Entrance, there are probably more than that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrownBear View Post
    There's a lot of your answer right there.

    It's easy to fish lings out if you keep going back and hitting the same spot. A charter boat hitting the same spot day after day? Guess what. Add several boats to the pic, and guess what? Add a lot of the boats to the pic, and boom. I wonder what happened to the lings....

    We have a lot of small spots that hold a few ling. But we only hit any of them once a year. And we generally never take more than two from any one spot. Just keep on moving and let them rest. A few of the spots folks saw us land a ling, and started hitting it hard. They're now completely off my list for lings, cuzz there are none there.

    Easy to point your finger at commercial fishermen, while hard to look in the mirror. There's no commercial fishing for lings in our area, but there's no shortage of individuals and charters that are proud to take limits from a spot. Same answer.

    We catch the lings we want, but we keep our yaps shut, and we don't go there if there are any other boats within sight.
    i understand that ling can be fished out. I guess I wasn't clear enough when I laid out the scenarios in my original post. We don't set up over the exact same spot over and over. I was talking about fishing in same general areas. As an example, over the years we have fished a bunch all around Middleton island. A limit of lings out there was a foregone conclusion but then last year we caught virtually none.

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    Quote Originally Posted by safari View Post
    i understand that ling can be fished out. I guess I wasn't clear enough when I laid out the scenarios in my original post. We don't set up over the exact same spot over and over. I was talking about fishing in same general areas. As an example, over the years we have fished a bunch all around Middleton island. A limit of lings out there was a foregone conclusion but then last year we caught virtually none.
    You and the thousands of other boats that fish that area every year, where did all the lings go ??? you all ate them !! GPS has made a lot of folks that couldn't find their way out of the harbor great fishermen !! Couple of years ago i watched a guy in a seasport pull up to every one of my buoys while i was shrimping and he was so close i could see him hitting the save button on the GPS !! How many more times does it happen when there is nobody there to see it. If the satellites shut down for a summer i bet you wouldn't see many boats out past pigot pt !!!
    Everybody thinks it only me that fishes this spot, yeah you and 300 other boats during the summer, there are just way to many boats trying to catch fewer and fewer fish and thats everywhere not just in the Sound.
    When i say "you" i'm not meaning you the op of the post so please don't take it personally.

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    Just curious, was your trip this past summer later in the season than previous years? I'm speculating that if you fished later in the season this past summer perhaps the areas were cleaned out vs. previous trips that may have been closer to the opening of the season.

    Ling are fairly easy to target and catch and hence are quite susceptable to over fishing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaHippie View Post
    Results of tagging studies have indicated the majority of lingcod are fairly sedentary and do not wander far from their home reef
    This is one reason they are easily overfished and the Charters just keep going further out as closer areas quit producing.

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    I didn't notice a significant difference between 2013 and the two previous years. That said, 2010 was unbelieveable. When we went to our favorite halibut and rockfish spots all we could catch was ling. Well, not quite, but it seemed like. That year only. Not before or since.

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    We left at least one keeper behind last year...

    Actually haven't noticed a decline in numbers...we tend to C&R many every season.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    Just curious, was your trip this past summer later in the season than previous years? I'm speculating that if you fished later in the season this past summer perhaps the areas were cleaned out vs. previous trips that may have been closer to the opening of the season.

    Ling are fairly easy to target and catch and hence are quite susceptable to over fishing.
    Paul,

    The 2013 trip was middle of July, pretty much same timeframe I go every year.

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    Maybe it was just me and my group that had a bad ling year in 2013 but from what I saw on the docks in Valdez I think most of halibut charters experienced similar decline in lings. One thing that I suspect adfg better start considering is the effect on ling and yelloweye due to the decreased halibut limit. In past years, we always exclusively fished for halibut and any ling or yelloweye caught were purely coincidental. Now that we can only keep 1.25 halibut per day, there is going to be considerable pressure on the captain to focus on getting lings and yelloweyes for all the clients to help put enough meat in the hold for the average joe to justify the charter cost.

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    "justify the charter cost" if your only going for meat its cheaper(and a sure bet) to go to costco to buy your halibut.

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    Quote Originally Posted by potbuilder View Post
    "justify the charter cost" if your only going for meat its cheaper(and a sure bet) to go to costco to buy your halibut.
    I gotta disagree with you there pot builder. In the past I generally end up with enough skinless halibut fillet that the meat costs me 12-13 bucks a pound. That ain't cheap but it is considerably better deal than the store these days where skinless halibut fillets are running 15-20 bucks a pound. I do get your point though. I charter fish cause I enjoy it and I am willing to ascribe some of the trip expense to recreation. However, I need to get a certain amount of fish to justify the high cost of the trip so since I can no longer get the amount of halibut I used to get I will now focus on improving my odds of getting limits of yelloweye and ling as I assume every other halibut charter will.

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    Quote Originally Posted by safari View Post
    ...I can no longer get the amount of halibut I used to get I will now focus on improving my odds of getting limits of yelloweye and ling as I assume every other halibut charter will.
    Yeah, thanks for that. Those rock piles out there aren't any secret, and every charter targets them all season long. And they aren't running that far out just for the fun of it... In a few years time when the question is asked "what happened to all the Yelloweye we used to catch?" the answer won't be any great mystery.
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