Every year, our local dive club does several dives for Ocean Wise’s lingcod egg mass survey from around the end of January to March 10th.
The survey is the result of concerns about the overfishing of this fish species and is conducted just after the spawn (January to February) when females leave the males to guard the egg masses from predation by species like sea stars. There are very few deadbeat dads in this species!
The data collected provide insight into the abundance and reproductive success of Lingcod in British Columbia and include: depth of the egg masses; their size (grapefruit, cantaloupe or watermelon sized); if the eggs are being guarded by a male; and their state of development (new, eyed or rotten). We are very fortunate that our area appears to have relatively abundant and large egg masses. At the end of this blog, you’ll find my 2.5 minute slide show of their life history.
But let me first take you on a wee retrospective journey.
My understanding of the behaviour of these magnificent fish has now evolved to where I now take photos of the extremely territorial males guarding their large orbs of fertilized eggs, but it certainly wasn’t always that way for me. The following is a much exaggerated perspective from when I was a very new diver doing their first Lingcod egg mass survey.
In 1999, I had only ever done 14 dives and had never even seen a Lingcod while diving. So, in preparation for the survey, I consulted my trusty field guide and felt well-prepared knowing the information below:
LINGCOD (Ophiodon elongatus)
- Size: To 1.5 m and 37 kg.
- Description: Large head, mouth and teeth; dark blotches on a slender, tapering, mottled body.
- Habitat: Adults on rocky reefs and in kelp beds to 2,000 m; juveniles on sand and mud bottom.
However, nothing could have truly prepared me for meeting the awe-inspiring and highly dedicated Lingcod Fathers for Future Generations Club.
That first experience with the survey in 1999 led me to writing the following tongue-in-cheek “updated” field guide information in my dive log.
LINGCOD (Megadontos fishious)
- Size: &%$#@ huge!!!!!
- Description: Teeth sharp, large and fear inducing; species camouflaged for added surprise value; ability to make themselves appear even larger and more menacing by fanning out huge gill plates (opercula). Note: Wise for divers to retreat if this behaviour is observed.
- Habitat: Adult males found anywhere that groups of dive slate carrying divers like to congregate.
- Comment: Egg masses are said to have eyes at some stage of their development but no living diver can confirm that this is the case!
This is an awe-inspiring fish species indeed. I have even had a male knock my dive slate out of my hands during a survey. Ironically, I was recording “absent” under the column for whether a male was guarding the egg mass!
Note that the common name of Lingcod is confusing as they are not a cod nor a ling (another fish species).
For detailed information on the survey, survey reports and on the biology of Lingcod click here for the Ocean Wise webpage.