Lingcod, Ophiodon elongatus
The Lingcod, Ophiodon elongatus, whose Spanish common name is molva is not a true Cod and is a species in the family Hexagrammidae, the Greenlings, known collectively as molvas in Mexico. Globally, there is only one species in the genus Ophiodon, the species described herein, which is found in Mexican waters of the extreme northwest coast of Baja.
The Lingcods have large elongated cylindrical bodies that narrow toward the tail. They are gray to brown in color, with greenish or bluish tints, with darker and lighter spotting and are lighter ventrally. They have a prominent white lateral line. Their anal fin has three spines and 21 to 24 rays and their caudal fin is truncated. Their dorsal fin has 24 to 27 spines and 21 to 24 rays; it is long and separated into two parts with a notch. Their head has a large mouth that extends past the eyes and is equipped with small pointed teeth interspersed with large canine-like teeth. They have a cirrus above the eye. Their head is scaleless, however, their body is covered with scales.
The Lingcods are bottom dwellers found in and around rocky areas adjacent to large drop-offs with good water movement, normally at depths between 30 and 330 feet but they have also been documented at depths of 1,400 feet. They reach a maximum length of 1.52 meters (5 feet) and weight of 59 kg (130 pounds). They are generally a deep water slow-moving non-migratory species making them “sitting ducks” for recreational anglers. They are voracious predators consuming fish, invertebrates, octopi, and squid. In turn they are preyed upon by Sea Lions and Harbor Seals. Females and males have lifespans of 20 and 14 years, respectively. Reproduction is oviparous with each female laying between 150,000 and 500,000 eggs per annum. The eggs are deposited in crevices and under rocks and are guarded by the males until they hatch. They have a limited distribution in Mexican waters being found in the first 275 miles of the Pacific side of the northwest coast of Baja with fish taken as far south as Punta San Carlos.
The Lingcod is straightforward to identify, mainly due to its size. It is similar to the Cabezon, Scorpaenichthys marmoratus (lacks large teeth).
The Lingcod is considered to be an excellent food fish and sold commercially.
Lingcod, Ophiodon elongates: Fish caught in Erendira, Baja California, February 2015. Photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton.