Lingcod season starts Monday, May 1 in Puget Sound waters. Nicknamed “bucketheads,” the bottom fish are considered excellent tablefare. Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Anglers ready to test waters for lingcod, halibut

Many Puget Sound anglers could be developing a scratchy throat and cough this weekend as they ponder the opening of lingcod season Monday.

The popular bottomfish fishery is open in all waters around Whidbey Island from May 1 through June 15.

A boatload of fishing vessels are expected to be hanging out around Deception Pass, which is an ideal location because of its rocky shoreline.

“Lingcod are fantastic eating fish,” said Kevin Petersen, a longtime Oak Harbor fisherman and sporting goods supplier for Ace Hardware stores.

“It’s a season that just hasn’t changed that you can count on that’s really good. A lot of other seasons you can’t count on.”

Anglers get another bonus next week with the start of a very tight halibut season Thursday, May 4.

The season in Puget Sound marine areas 5-10 consists of only seven scheduled dates: May 4, 6, 11, 21 and 25 and June 1 and 4. Those marine areas cover the waters around Whidbey.

Although both fisheries have become popular, more anglers participate in lingcod fishing around Whidbey because of the fish’s greater abundance, longer season and easier access, said Ralph Downes, State Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer.

“Halibut is generally associated with farther offshore waters and bigger gear,” Downes said.

“Halibut is very popular. Nothing against the mighty flat fish but it pales in comparison to the mighty lingcod.”

Both are generally caught from boats with some exceptions for lingcod.

The daily limit for lingcod is one with a minimum size of 26 inches and a maximum size of 36 inches.

Lingcod are not allowed to be caught in water deeper than 120 feet.

Scuba divers take part in a spearfishing season for lingcod from May 21-June 15 in marine areas 5-10.

A state saltwater fishing license is required to catch both halibut and lingcod.

For more information on both fisheries, go to www.wdfw.wa.gov