Ling is one of the largest and hardest fighting members of the cod family.
Although similar in size and shape, the ling is easily distinguishable from the conger. It is brighter in color and has two dorsal fins; the first is short, while the second runs down its back to the wrist of its tail.
The conger has only one continuous dorsal fin, which run the whole length of its body. The ling has a long barbule under its chin, which is absent in the conger. This barbule is distinctive of the Cod family.
Ling, like congers, will grow to vast sizes. Like congers, ling are great lovers of wrecks and deep water reefs, bun unlike congers they will hunt and kill their prey well above the bottom and have been caught as far up as mid-water. I have seen and caught ling on the top of shallow reefs while drifting using a flowing trace and a fresh sand eel.
For the sea angler, catching ling should be a fairly straightforward affair if he sticks to a few basic rules. These fish have a huge, fearsome mouth with an impressive set of dentures which it uses to catch and shred its prey, and for this reason the angler must use a large hook and equally large bait. Whole mackerel or large mackerel fillet seem to be the top bait for catching ling, but I have also had good results with herring, pouting, small pollack, coalies, sprats and large sand eels.
Traces for catching ling are very basic; no need for flashy gear here. Simple pirk in one of the most effective pieces of tackle that I use.
A short flowing trace of heavy mono fishing line or light wire about 4 feet in length with a spoon attached is also very effective. I use the spoon about 6 inches up the line from a hook no smaller than 6/0 offset hook that is sharp and good quality. Hokkais also seem to catch more than their fair share of ling on a regular basis, but if you are planning to use them for a day’s fishing and ling are on the menu then I would advise you to tie them with a heavier mono than the standard type they are usually tied with.
Drifting over rough ground is the best method for catching ling; you are more likely to come across some ling if you are covering a large area. Anchoring will also catch you ling but to a lesser extent than drifting, unless you find a wreck or reef that hasn’t been fished for a while. While anchored you should use a conger trace instead of a ling trace, because you a sure to catch at least one conger and they are more adept at biting through mono due to their strong jaws and their extremely sharp, close set teeth. Although ling will take a bait as far up as mid-water, keep your bait as close to the bottom as you possibly can; this will greatly your chances of catching a fish. The bait needs to be changed every twenty minutes; a bait with no scent is no good unless you’re lucky enough to land it on top of a very hungry fish:-)
Ling are completely the opposite to congers in the way they take a bait; large and small congers are cautious by nature and will only bite and mouth a bait very gently, sometimes taking several minutes before lifting and moving off with your trace. A good ling, on the other hand, could pull a rod over the side of the boat if it was left unattended. Their bite consists of a series of heavy pulls and most ling hook themselves by doing this. It is still advisable to strike with a sharp lift of the rod, just to make sure.
Ling is strong, so I use the same tackle as for conger:
Fishing rod: extra heavy 7’ Lamiglas Big Fish Conventional Rod
Fishing reel: Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 7000i