Pollock (Pollachius virens)


A member of the Gadidae family, the pollock is the most active of the various codfish and has been popular with anglers. It is an important commercial species, taken primarily by trawls and gillnets, and not to be confused with another cod family member, the Alaska, or walleye, pollock (Theragra calcogramma). A similar species sought by anglers is the European pollack (Pollachius pollachius).

Identification

The pollock is olive green to greenish-brown on top and yellowish-gray on the sides and the belly, with silvery overtones. It can be distinguished from other members of the cod family, such as the Atlantic cod, the haddock, and the tomcod, by three features: The lower jaw of the pollock projects beyond the upper jaw, the tail is forked, and the lateral line is quite straight, not arching above the pectoral fins.

A young pollock has codlike barbels on the chin, but these are small and usually disappear with age. The European pollack is distinguished from the pollock by its lateral line, which is decurved over the pectoral fins.

Size/Age

Pollock can grow to 31⁄2 feet, although most adults are much smaller. The average fish weighs between 4 and 15 pounds. The all-tackle record is 50 pounds. A slow-growing fish, the pollock reaches about 30 inches at age 9. They have been reported to live as long as 31 years, but few pollock live longer than 12 years.

Life history/Behavior

The spawning season for pollock is in the late autumn and the early winter. Their eggs are free-floating and drift on the surface, and for the first 3 months, larvae are present on or near the surface. Juveniles travel in large, tightly packed schools near the surface.

Food

Pollock feed in large schools on small herring, small cod, and their relatives, and on sand eels and various tiny crustaceans.

Other Names

coalfish, Boston bluefish, green cod, blisterback, saithe, coley.

Distribution

In North America, pollock range from Greenland and Labrador south to Virginia.

Habitat

Generally a deep or midwater fish, the pollock prefers rocky bottoms in waters shallower than those cod or haddock prefer. They occur in depths of up to 100 fathoms, although they are found as shallow as 4 fathoms.
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