Alaska Lingcod and Rockfish
Alaska saltwater fishing in Sitka includes targeting lingcod and rockfish, as well as salmon and halibut. Both lingcod and rockfish are aggressive predators and can often be enticed to eat lures and bait. They yield white-meat fillets that are scrumptious. Many a Sitka-bound angler looks forward to a bounty of rockfish fillets to bring home for popular meals like fish tacos or fish and chips. Some anglers consider lingcod the best-eating saltwater fish in Alaska, even outpacing the uber-popular halibut.
There are over 30 species of rockfish in the Alaska saltwater fishing world. They are broken down into Pelagic and Nonpelagic groups. The Pelagics include black, blue, dark, dusky, widow, and yellowtail. The daily bag limit on Pelagic rockfish in Sitka Sound and the surrounding waters is three per day for nonresidents; five per day for residents. Nonpelagic rockfish are further broken down into Demersal shelf and Slope. Retention of Demersal shelf rockfish is prohibited and includes: canary, China, copper, quillback, rosethorn, tiger and yelloweye. If you catch a Demersal shelf rockfish, you will need to use a deepwater release device (sometimes called a descending device) to send the fish back to depth at which it was caught or 100 feet, and release it. It is required to have such a device onboard and it must be readily available for use. Note that it may take four- or five pounds of lead to descend a large yelloweye rockfish. Be sure you are prepared for this.
Nonpelagic Slope rockfish include blackgill, blackspotted, bocaccio, brown, chilipepper, darkblotched, greenstriped, harlequin, northern, Pacific Ocean perch, Puget Sound, pygmy, redstripe, redbanded, rougheye, sharpchin, shortbelly, shortraker, silvergray, splitnose, stripetail, vermilion, and yellowmouth. The limit on Slope rockfish is one per day. Slope rockfish are sometimes caught by anglers at Fish Baranof when Alaska saltwater fishing.
Rockfish in general are easy to catch once you find them. Black rockfish are among the most plentiful rockfish in Alaska, so we recommend that you target them. Once you get onto a school, vertically jigging 2- to 4-ounce metal jigs that look like baitfish is very effective. Lead-head jigs with curly tail grubs in the same size range also work well. If you aren’t getting bit on a jig, try mooching a plug-cut or diamond-shaped chunk of herring. Black rockfish schools can often be found in fairly shallow water and sometimes will come to or near the surface. This is an angler’s best opportunity to target rockfish on the fly while Alaska saltwater fishing. An 8-weight rod; Type 6 sinking line; 6-foot, 15-pound-test fluorocarbon leader attached to a Clouser pattern or other baitfish imitation will usually get the job done.
Pelagic rockfish can be found anywhere in the water column, so anglers typically drop their jigs to the bottom and crank a few handle turns, jig for about 30 seconds, crank up 10 feet and repeat, until a fish is hooked or the gear ends up at the surface. Having a line-counter reel comes in handy when Alaska saltwater fishing so that you can replicate the depth where you hooked the last fish.
Gear for targeting an average Pelagic rockfish includes a 7- to 8½-foot casting rod rated for 8- to 15-pound-test line, with a matching reel spooled with 150 yards of 30-pound-test braid and a 20-foot, 15-pound-test fluorocarbon topshot. Spinning rods and reels with similar specifications work, too. These light rods really let rockfish show their stuff!
Lingcod are the largest member of the greenling family and are either fearsomely ugly or beautiful, depending on who you talk to. All can agree that they are extremely aggressive and have a bucket mouth full of super-sharp teeth. They can reach large sizes, with 50-inch-plus lingcod a possibility in the waters around Sitka.
Lingcod are typically territorial and stake a position on a reef or rockpile where there are often other rockfish species available for them to eat. Finding a productive reef and jigging it while you drift is a common technique for finding and catching lingcod. Due to their size, heavier rods are needed to battle them, especially big specimens. When Alaska saltwater fishing for lingcod, consider a casting rod in the 7- to 8½-foot range, rated for 20- to 50-pound-test line and a matching reel that can hold 200 yards of 50- or 65-pound-test braid. Add a 20-foot topshot of 50-pound-test fluorocarbon. Popular lures include metal baitfish-imitation jigs like the Ahi USA Live Deception Jig in 6- or 8-ounce sizes. Other anglers use lead-head jigs with curly-tail grubs, and the 10-ounce Kodiak Custom Bottomfish Jig is another good choice. Depending on depth and current, jigs from 4- to over 16 ounces might be required.
Nonresident anglers can keep one lingcod per day, and two per season. They must be between 30- and 35 inches or over 55 inches. Of the two keeper lingcod a non-resident keeps in a season, one must be in the 30- to 35-inch window and one must be over 55 inches.