Rock Cod and Lingcod Fishing Tips

Rock Cod and Lingcod Fishing Tips

Vermilion Rock Cod

When the salmon season is slow, nothing beats a wide open rock cod and ling cod trip! Targeting these species often results in fast-paced fishing that can yield limits within hours.

The best part is that you’re able to experiment with hundreds of different lures and techniques since rockfish aren’t too picky with what they eat. Get ready for some rock cod and ling cod fishing tips that will help put limits in the boat in no time!


(Always check CURRENT regulations as these may be outdated in the future)

The season for boaters is open from March 1st – December 31st.

Species can only be taken in waters less than 360ft (60 fathoms) deep.

Daily bag & possession limit is 10 fish in combination of all species within RCG Complex.

  • Includes all species of Rockfish, Cabezon & Greenlings per person.
  • 3 Black Rockfish per person (within limit of 10).
  • 3 Bocaccio Rockfish per person (within limit of 10).
  • Yelloweye, Canary, Bronzespotted & Cowcod rockfish may not be retained.


Ling Cod HeadThe season for boaters is open from March 1st through December 31st.

Lingcod can only be kept in waters less than 360ft deep (60 fathoms).

Daily bag & possession limit is 2 fish

Minimum size limit of 22 inches total length


The most important thing is to have a decent fishfinder that allows you to mark locations holding structure and schools of fish. Here are other important aspects to remember.

  • Rock Cod and Ling Cod strictly hold to structure
    • Find rock structure in the form of ledges, humps, or even shipwrecks
    • Kelp beds are also key fish-holding structure
  • Depth is Important
    • If you aren’t finding fish at a certain depth, try going deeper or shallower until you get bites. Most of the time going deeper helps (but not always).
    • Rock cod and lingcod can be located anywhere from 60 feet or less to over 300 feet of water. Once again play around with depth until you get results.
    • Different species will hold at various depths and types of structure.
  • Fishing Quickly & Efficiently
    • Schools of rockfish tend to relocate after a few short minutes
    • When you find a school get your rigs down as quickly as possible.
    • Keep extra pre-tied rigs handy so you can quickly switch and keep fishing if needed.
    • Don’t get stuck to one spot for too long. Always move around looking for new structure and mark them on your graph for future trips.


We do not recommend spinning gear for these fish unless the rod is specifically for jigging such as the Shimano Trevala, etc. It’s possible but the 6-10oz. jigs make it difficult to handle on spinning gear. We highly recommend using a conventional reel since you get more torque and less strain on your body.


Here are a few of our favorite rockfishing reels based on personal experience.

Penn Squall 20LW
Type Star Drag
Weight 16.2 oz.
Bearings 3
Gear Ratio 4.9:1
Drag 15lbs
Line Capacity 20lbs / 220yds


Shimano Torium 16HG
Type Star Drag
Weight 18.9 oz.
Bearings 4
Gear Ratio 6.2:1
Drag 24lbs
Line Capacity 20lbs / 320yds


If you prefer monofilament, use 20-25lb test. If you have the funds, however, use braided line. It allows you to drop rigs down faster, set the hook harder and most importantly enhance your bite sensitivity.

Some charter boats won’t let you use braid so make sure you double check with the captain before spooling. If you’re on a private vessel I highly recommend braid for the best results. Feel free to use a bright-colored braid so you can easily see where you’re at. This won’t matter to the fish once you attach a monofilament leader.


  • Clear Trilene Big Game – Cheap and doesn’t have much memory. Lasts many trips and maintains strength.
  • Maxima Ultragreen – In our opinion the strongest mono out there. Only downside is a bit of memory but it makes up for it with super abrasive-resistance.
  • Yo-Zuri Hybrid – Monofilament line with a fluorocarbon coating. Super strong and the coating gives it abrasive resistance as well.


  • Green PowerPro Spectra – A staple for most anglers. This braid feels more coarse but is extremely durable.
  • Daiwa J-Braid – A newer braid from Daiwa that is extremely slick, saving your guides from damage. Our favorite feature is that the colors don’t fade, letting you use bright colors with no worries.


This can be any variety of lengths and weight capacities, but here is what I’ve used personally.

Daiwa VIP 870
Power Medium Heavy
Action Fast
Length 7′
Pieces 1
Line Rating 15-40lbs


Phenix Abyss 808
Action Moderate Fast
Length 8′
Pieces 1
Line Rating 15-40lbs
Warranty Lifetime



Rock cod can be caught on almost anything, but here are a few standard jigs and rigs that will catch limits in no time.

P-Line Farallon Feathers – One of the cheapest and most popular methods. For a little under $3 these pre-tied rigs are perfect! All they need is a 6-8oz torpedo weight for the snap swivel at the end. My favorite colors are Red/Yellow, White, and Green/Yellow

Buzz BombOne of my favorite ways to jig for rockfish. Often times ling cod will hit these too! You’ll need a few other items to complete the Buzz Bomb rig.

  • Plastic Beads – Any size is fine. Put one above and one below your Buzz Bomb before adding a punch stop.
  • Rubber Punch Stop – This goes above your Buzz Bomb to keep it from sliding up the main line.

P-Line Laser Minnow – Another awesome jig for both rockfish and lings. Swap out to a bronze treble hook so you can bend it out in case of snags.

Customizing rockfish jigs are another great way to improve your changes while out on the water. Depending on the location and time of year it can make all the difference.


If you’re drifting, a standard 3-Way Rig is great. Swimbaits and jigs provide a little extra fun.

Three Way Rig – If you want them pre-tied, look for Halibut Drift Rigs. They are essentially the same thing.

  • Use anchovy, mackerel, sardines, or whole squid as bait.
  • Live bait is best! Use a Sabiki Rig to jig up live bait and send them down for instant results.

Lead Head & Swimbait Combo – This can be any combination, but here’s what I use.

  • 6-8oz. Lead Head – I use the simple, unpainted heads.
  • 5-7” Big Hammer Swimbait – These have been the most durable baits I’ve used.
  • My favorite swimbait colors are Halloween, Pacific ‘Chovy, and Pearl.
  • Any big Scampi/Curly Tail plastic in Motor Oil, White or Orange colors.

P-Line Diamond Jig A smaller, more enticing profile compared to the Hex Jig.

P-Line Hex Jig – A simple yet effective jig. Perfect for both shallow & deep water situations.



More often than not, a lingcod will regurgitate a dead octopus after being caught. Yes, this is disgusting but that stinky creature has now become your absolute best chance of landing another ling. Send the octopus down on a three-way drift rig and hang on!


  1. Cast out as far as you can and let the lure/rig touch bottom. Keep an eye on the fishfinder and remember the depth you’re fishing.
  2. After hitting bottom reel up 3-5 cranks immediately. If you wait too long you will snag rocks and risk breaking off.
  3. Lift your rod fast and drop slow. Crank up a few times and repeat until your jig is back up to you.
  4. For a little more scent and attraction you can tip each hook with a thin strip of squid. Rockfish absolutely love this.


  1. Cast out as far as you can and touch bottom briefly.
  2. After hitting bottom crank up 3-5 times immediately.
  3. Slowly jig your swimbait up and down while reeling up slack until it’s back to you. It’s okay to contact rocks as you’re less likely to snag with the top hook feature. The high sensitivity of braid helps you feel your bait better. 


  1. Drop straight down from the boat until you hit bottom.
  2. After hitting bottom crank up 3-5 times immediately.
  3. Place rod in holder and wait for your rod to load up.
  4. Keep an eye on depth as it may change drastically. Adjust depth accordingly.


  1. Awesome article on rock cod and lingcod fishing tips. I’ve unfortunately only gone a few times. The first time I didn’t catch jack squat but that’s because my bud didn’t check the tides. I recommend going out on a boat as long as you don’t get sea sick easily.

  2. This year was a great year for getting Big Lings. We where catching bigums on jigs and irons. I was able to use a buzzbomb for the first time this year and those baits are great. We still have a good amount of the year to get those limits of rock and ling cod, and I would spend the remaining season in Carmel and Halfmoon bay if it was up to me.

  3. The lincod look gnarly! I heard they’re pretty good eating but I don’t know too many spots to fish for them without a boat. Any solid spots to check out in SoCal?

    • It’s actually not wrong, CA Department of Fish and Wildlife (2016) stated that both lingcod and rockcod may only be taken or possessed in depths less than 120 feet (20 fathoms). Although, you could be talking about another state like WA or OR.

      • It just depends which region you are fishing. In the central coast region we are allowed to fish waters up to 40 fathoms. Other regions are only allowed 20-30 fathoms.

  4. Wow, the fish in that first picture doesn’t even seem real. Fish are such interesting and diverse creatures, it would be fun to do a study on them. For now, I will stick to fishing, but I must say I’ve never caught something so magnificent nor do I plan on it happening.

    • There are plenty of rockfish charter boats out there and they’ll definitely make catching them a reality. They’re fairly cheap and you can always rent the gear! I hope you have the chance to catch some soon, tight lines!

  5. I am taking my wife out rock cod fishing on the Betty o out of Marina Del Rey for our 50th. ann. I will let you know how we did. our fishing date is for 10/5/16 . Wish us luck.

  6. Well we had A great time on the Betty O for our ann. The deck hands were really great and helpful .We both caught our limits of rock fish and nice size to them. even the fishermen that go out very often were helpful .I wish I had a way to get the two deckhands names as I have forgot.
    anyway we are saving up for our next fishing adventure on the Betty O. If some one knows the deckhands name please post them here for me .
    Thanks Roy & Mary from 29 Palms .

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