Name

Ling (Molva molva)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught ling can weigh 18.14 Kg (40 lbs) or more. Commercial trawlers have netted specimens weighing in excess of 294 Kg (650 lbs)!

The average ling weighs about 6.80 Kg (15 lbs).

Also known as

Common ling

Appearance

The ling has a long, slim body which can grow to upwards of 2 metres, and is olive-brown or yellow on the back, marbled yellow or golden-brown on the sides and pale on the underbelly. It has two dorsal fins, the first of which is short and often has a dark spot, the second dorsal fin, like the anal fin, is very long and continues to the tail.

The tail, dorsal and anal fins are all lined white along the edges. On its lower jaw is a small barbule (feeler) and it also has a mouth of strong, sharp teeth.

Warning: Ling are armed with strong teeth! Keep your finger away from those jaws.

So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

Whole fresh fish such as herring, mackerel, squid and pouting work best for catching ling, fresh fish strips are also suitable. Alternatively artificial baits such as sizeable pirks with baited hooks are also good for catching ling.

Seasons

Ling can be caught all year round, the best catches are generally made throughout June, July, August and September.

Favourite Feeding Places

The ling favours deep offshore waters to hunt, the biggest ling mostly feeding very close to the seabed at depths of around 50 fathoms (91.5 m) and below, particularly over wrecks and rocks.

Ling also follow shoals of fish to mid-water levels and can even swim close to the surface where they are known to chase behind trawlers, waiting to snatch fish which fall from the nets.

Best Locations

Ling can be caught throughout all British waters, with the best catches being made off the coast of Scotland, northern England and the West Country.

Best rigs for catching Ling

Shore Fishing

To catch ling from the shore a basic leger rig with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on line which is cast into deep water is ideal.

Basic Leger Rig

This rig is used to lay hookbait on the seabed. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft). This rig works so well beause your line is able to pass through the weight’s “eye”, meaning that shy or suspicious fish can tug the bait without instantly sensing the resistance.

Boat Fishing

If catching ling from a boat, a boat leger rig with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on line or a running paternoster rig with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on line are recommended.

Boat Leger Rig

This is one of the simplest and most effective rigs for boat anglers. The space between the hook and swivel can vary, but should generally be about 1 m (3 ft). The bait is presented on the seabed and the line is able to move through the boom without hitting the weight which would otherwise scare off a bait-biting fish.

Running Paternoster Rig

This rig allows you to anchor your hookbait above the seabed and also lets fish take the bait without instantly sensing resistance from the weight. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches). The space between the weight and swivel on connecting line is also variable, but should generally be about 610 mm (2 ft).

Top tips

  1. To catch big ling, use big bait. A whole live pouting or freshly killed mackerel is merely a snack to a monster ling!
  2. Hooked ling often lunge down into rocks, caves or subterranean tunnels, you need to prevent this or you’ll lose the ling in a seabed tangle. Halt the ling’s dive for freedom, don’t allow it any line and fight it to the surface.