Atlantic Tomcod (Microgadus tomcod)

A member of the Gadidae family (codfish), the Atlantic tomcod is a small, hardy fish, resembling its relative the Atlantic cod. Able to adapt to salinity changes and sudden cold spells, the tomcod can survive in both saltwater and freshwater. It is a delicious fish, sometimes taken in large quantities by anglers, and is caught commercially in small numbers due to its size.

Other Names

tomcod; French: poulamon atlantique; Spanish: microgado.


Characteristic of the cod family, the Atlantic tomcod has three dorsal and two anal fins, which are rounded, as is the caudal fin. The body is heavy and has a large, subterminal mouth. Its eyes are small. The coloring is olive brown on the back, fading lighter below, and the sides are heavily blotched with black. The fins have wavy or mottled designs.

The Atlantic tomcod can be distinguished from the Atlantic cod by its long, tapering ventral fins and smaller body.


A generally small species that might be considered a saltwater panfish, the Atlantic tomcod averages 6 to 12 inches in length. It can weigh up to 1 pound.

Spawning behavior

The spawning season of the Atlantic tomcod is from November through February. It spawns in brackish water or saltwater. The eggs sink to the bottom and attach to algae and rocks.


The Atlantic tomcod uses its chin barbel and ventral fins to detect and inspect food. It consumes small shrimp, amphipods, worms, clams, squid, and small fish.


The Atlantic tomcod inhabits waters along the North American coast from Labrador and the Gulf of St. Lawrence south to Virginia. It is common locally north from Long Island.


Primarily dwelling along the coast, the Atlantic tomcod is known to enter freshwater rivers during the winter. It is also landlocked in some Canadian lakes. The tomcod lives close to the bottom and is usually found in depths of 2 to 3 fathoms.