Common Ling

Fatter than an eel and longer than a cod, the ling are fierce, bottom-loving predators found around the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean.
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About Common Ling

The common ling, Molva molva, has been described as looking like a cross between a conger eel and a cod. Fatter than the former and longer and thinner than the latter, ling are fierce ambush predators that dwell on the bottom, mostly in deep waters. Ling are an important commercial trawl and long line species and a popular sport target. Ling are mottled green, brown, reddish above and paler on the underside. The dorsal and anal fins have a white margin. The species has one large barble at the front of the lower jaw and much larger and sharper teeth than those of cod. They can grow to about 200 cm (79 in.) and 30 kg (66 lbs) during their lives, and can live up to 25 years. The females grow faster than the males and both mature around 5 years old at about 80 cm. (32 in.) The species feeds aggressively on other fish and occasionally invertebrates and spawns from about March to July annually. A large female is reputed to “carry” between 20 and 60 million eggs, making ling one of the most fecund fish. Ling are basically solitary predators that prefer rocky bottoms, but they are attracted to wrecks and similar structures where they can congregate in large numbers.

How to Catch?

Very few common ling are caught from the shore. The vast majority are landed from land-based private and charter boats. There are many harbours along the Norwegian, Irish, French and Mediterranean coasts that have suitable charters with crews who know the best localities, equipment, baits and methods. Although the use of artificial lures, such as soft plastics, spoons and jigs is increasing, natural baits are still the most popular fishing method. Fillets and “flappers” of species such as mackerel, herring and pollack are popular, especially if they can be caught fresh on or near the fishing grounds. Drifting over and around wrecks is productive and the bait should be dropped to the bottom, raised slightly and then “worked” gently up and down to attract the ling. Unfortunately, when elevated from a great depth, the ling undergo barotrauma and their eyes may “pop” and swim bladders extrude from their mouths. This makes catch-and-release problematic, so, once you’ve caught enough ling, it is best to try for other species. To hook and then bring up a decent-sized ling from deep water is quite an experience, but well worth it as they are good fighters and their flesh is highly esteemed.