Ling- Midnight Madness
Most peoples first encounters with Ling, which are also known as Burbot or freshwater Cod, are incidental. Usually in deep coldwater northern Ontario lakes after the Walleye bite has died off and lines are left down just a bit longer than normal, an angler will stumble across what I like to call “midnight madness”. Ling are almost unreachable during most of the year, until the hard-water season sets in. From this point, Ling can provide countless nights of action throughout the winter for those willing to stay up a bit later. Just don’t stay up so late as to compromise the morning whitefish, walleye and lake trout action.
I call it midnight madness due to the fact that Ling seem to lay dormant throughout the day, and tend to squirm their way out of the depths an hour or so after dark falls. From this point they are veracious feeders and will continue to bite until the wee hours of the morning. One way to ensure this kind of action is to chum your holes during the day with rice or dead minnows.
The table fare of Ling is renowned as being excellent. I ate a few myself last winter and found it quite good. Some people say they prefer it over walleye, or refer to it as poor mans lobster. I’ve tried it pan fried in garlic butter, and barbecued in foil. The challenge is getting a decent portion of meat off these creatures. Filleting the tail portion, from the back of the ribs rearward as you would any other fish, and then taking an inch or so off of the back down to the ribs is one of your best bets.
Techniques for catching Ling are simple. Glow in the dark, glow in the dark, glow in the dark. Don’t get me wrong, I have caught them on simple spreaders on the bottom – sometimes two at a time – but in any depth at that time of night, glow in the dark jigs can only stack the odds in your favour. Use glow in the dark jig heads with a minnow either on bottom or a foot off of bottom. Ling will generally mouth the bait, so watch for subtle sucking motions of the rod tip. On an active night however, it’s as simple as waiting for the rod to buckle over. Use at least a medium action rod. Most Ling will be one to three pounds on average, but I have caught some in the five to eight pound range that have fought tremendously. As for depth range, I have caught Ling in depths ranging from 20 to 100 feet of water. The later it gets the shallower they seem to roam, especially around February when they like to spawn under the ice.
So this winter, give Ling a try. They’re plentiful, fun to catch and an interesting change from what we’re all used to. Just don’t be alarmed when they wrap themselves around your arm.