Common name: Ling
Latin name: Molva molva
Record weight: Many boat anglers will be familiar with the ling and large fish are caught each year by anglers targeting the species. The current boat caught best is a fish of 59lb 8oz, whilst the shore caught best is a fish of 21lb 10oz.
Distribution: Found in deeper water around the coast of Europe and right across the Northern Hemisphere to the Americas. Often found in depths greater than 300m, beyond the reach of anglers, but not beyond the commercial boats. Smaller fish are often found in shallower water, moving deeper as they grow. Tends to congregate around broken ground and particularly around wrecks.
Features: A member of the cod family, but different to most other species in this family. The upper jaw is longer than the lower, with the characteristic long single barbel in the centre of the lower jaw. The ling is a much longer, almost sinuous fish compared with other members of the cod family. Can reach up to two metres in length. Unlike other members of the cod family, the ling has only two dorsal fins and just a single ventral fin. Dark brown to grey mottled colouration, typical of a deep water species.
Diet: Ling are primarily a predatory species, feeding on any species that they can fit into their mouths. Although they will feed on any species that is locally abundant, eels, flatfish, mackerel and herring tend to make up the bulk of the diet. Will also take squid and crabs, particularly when small.
Spawning: Ling move into water of around 200m to spawn between March and July. Each female can produce over a million tiny eggs barely 1mm across that are released into the water where they are fertilised by the males. The eggs contain a high proportion of oil and so float towards the surface where they hatch after about ten days. Moving towards the surface puts the tiny ling in a zone rich with algae that can only survive where sunlight reaches down into the water. As they grow, their food changes from the algae to the zooplankton that are the next step up the food chain. The fish then turn to feeding on larger plankton, including small fish, before migrating down into the depths at around two years of age.