Throughout the past century, Atlantic Cod have been one of the most prominently fished species in the sea. Cod’s coloring can range from green, brown or gray on their tops and sides, and their belly is a lighter silver color. Cod have many distinctive features. They have three dorsal fins and two anal fins. A line runs along the sides of their body, called the “lateral line”. A barbell (whisker) sticks out from their chin, reminiscent of a catfish. Cod are a shoaling species of fish, which means they stick together and travel in schools.
Their conservation status is listed as vulnerable. At the moment, Cod fishing is considered sustainable because of close management. This was not always the case. In the early 1990’s, fisheries collapsed in North America. Overfishing because of the advancement of technology brought great distress on the species. Sonar, engine powered vessels, and frozen food compartments aboard the vessels were all contributors. Fishing Cod was boundless. New regulations were put in place, like net sizes, mesh sizes, minimum fish sizes, and quotas.
The average size of the Atlantic Cod can range from two to four feet, and will weigh in at 90 pounds. The largest cod recorded was 6 ½ feet and weighed 211 pounds. There is normally no noticeable difference in size between sexes.
Atlantic Cod feed on anything they are capable of, focusing primarily on other fish. When they are larvae, they feed on zooplankton. As they grow, they will feed on shrimp or small crustaceans. Once fully mature, Cod will eat various bony fish, lobsters and other invertebrates.
Cod prefer to swim near muddy bottoms and among wreckage. When fishing for them, a slow presentation in the water column works best, because they inspect movement near the ocean floor. A heavy duty rod with a braided line should be used with sinkers and diamond jigs that weight anywhere from 14 to 20 ounces. The bait has to be substantial, such as squid, mussels, or large worms. Live is preferred, or extremely fresh.
Cod reproduce in the winter or start of spring annually. They form large schools to spawn just offshore near the ocean floor. Cod prefer to spawn in the 32-55 degree Fahrenheit range. Cod reach sexual maturity between ages two and four, but may not spawn until age seven. Females will release between three to nine million eggs for males to fertilize, sometimes amounting to nine million eggs on the higher end. The males display aggressive behavior and establish a mating hierarchy based on size.
Cod prefer cold waters and reside near the ocean bottom; however, they can be found anywhere from close to the shore to the continental shelf. Their preferred depth is less than 500 feet. Cod inhabit both the northeast and northwest side of the Atlantic.