Seasoned breadcrumbs, lobster sauce with Alaskan shrimp, and a couple dabs of lumpfish roe are fitting accompaniment for one of the sea’s most prized fish – lingcod. This fillet is served on a bed of couscous and is surrounded by thin slices of Coho salmon sashimi. Recipes can be found at the end of this article.
Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus – long tooth) are a special fish. Their leopard-like spotting marks them for what they are: aggressive predators that, save for other, bigger lingcod, are at the top of the food chain among the fish with which they share rocky Northern Pacific reefs. They lie in ambush, waiting for unsuspecting greenling, rockfish, octopuses or whatever else might happen by, and then spring into action with massive jaws encircling 18 needle-sharp teeth. In the heart of their range – from British Columbia through Southcentral Alaska – 20 to 40-pound lingcod are common, with fish over 50 pounds showing up each year. The all-tackle IGFA record stands at 82 lb 9 0z and came from the Gulf of Alaska. Larger fish have been reported in commercial catches.
Welcoming a nice ling aboard our C-Dory 22 Angler. Note the two-pound rockfish hanging from the lower end of the metal jig.
Lings thump a jig like few other fish, and although pound-for-pound the smaller eight to 20-pounders seem to fight harder than the big cows, all lings generally give a good account of themselves, typically peeling line from reels as they dive for the rocks after being hooked. Many an angler has hooked a two or three pound
rockfish and while reeling in the catch had it violently intercepted by a lingcod. Frequently in these cases, the ling isn’t even hooked, but will hang onto its catch as tenaciously as a bulldog, fighting all the way to the boat where, if the angler is quick-witted enough, it can be gaffed or scooped up in a net. A moment’s hesitation, slack line, or lifting of the hitch-hiking ling’s head above water, however, can cause the predator to release its prey and nonchalantly swim back to the bottom.
If I had just one type of lure to fish rocky reefs, there’d be no contest as to what I’d choose: metal jigs in the right hands are deadly.
On the table, it is our view that lingcod is unsurpassed among white-meated fish. It compares favorably with grouper, halibut, snapper, and similar fish whether baked, broiled, pan-fried or deep-fried. Interestingly, the meat of fresh lingcod is sometimes blue. This does not affect the flavor or texture at all, and when cooked, the meat comes out in big, white, flakey chunks.
Lingcod are susceptible to overfishing. Most of the ones we catch go back to keep growing and to sustain the population.
Baked Lingcod with Breadcrumbs
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 24 ounce lingcod fillet cut into 4 separate pieces, skin removed
- 1/2 cup olive oil, placed in a bowl
- 2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs (We make our own breadcrumbs and season them with an Italian seasoning blend of our own making, but any good commercial blend is fine.)
- freshly ground pepper
- Additional olive oil for baking
- Place a baking sheet on the center rack of an oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.
- Place breadcrumbs in a bowl and season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Then transfer 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs to a plate where you will roll the fillets, and spread the remaining 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs on a cutting board where you will rest the fillets once they’re coated with breadcrumbs.
- Dip fillets one at a time in olive oil and completely cover with oil. Then roll the fillet in the breadcrumbs, covering all sides. Place atop breadcrumbs on cutting board.
- Coat baking sheet with olive oil. When oil is sizzling hot, place fillets on baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes (for fillets that are 1 inch thick). Breadcrumbs should be golden brown when fillet is done.
- Remove fillets from oven and place on a bed of couscous, rice or farfalle pasta.
- Spoon lobster sauce on fillets. Garnish with caviar, lumpfish roe or ikura (cured salmon eggs) and serve piping hot.
Lobster Sauce with Alaskan Shrimp
- 1 tablespoon Better than Bouillon lobster base or similar lobster base
- 1/4 pound peeled shrimp. Small shrimp are preferable; larger shrimp can but cut into smaller pieces.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rice flour (or substitute all-purpouse flour), as a thickener
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
- Freshly ground pepper
- Salt, if needed
- In a small pot over medium-low heat, place olive oil and onions. Stir occasionally till onions begin to turn translucent.
- Lower heat and add water and lobster bouillon, stirring until mixed together.
- Add rice flour, tarragon, pepper, paprika and butter, stirring constantly until flour is completely mixed in and mixture begins to thicken. Cover and lower heat (use a flame tamer if necessary).
- Add cream a little at a time, stirring constantly, until desired consistency is achieved.
- Add shrimp. Continue to stir until shrimp is cooked through (about 2 to 3 minutes).
- Remove pan from heat, but keep warm until sauce is needed.