Pacific Tomcod (Microgadus proximus)

A member of the Gadidae family, the Pacific tomcod is a small fish with minor commercial importance, due to its small average size. In central California, it is a popular recreational sportfish, usually taken incidentally by anglers pursuing larger-growing species. Its flesh is tasty, and it might be considered a saltwater panfish.

Other Names

tomcod, piciata, California tomcod.


The body of the Pacific tomcod is elongated and slender. It has a small barbel on the chin. Characteristic of the cod family, the Pacific tomcod has three dorsal fins, two anal fins, a large head, and a large mouth with fine teeth. The body is covered with small, thin scales. Its coloring is olive green above and creamy white below, and the fins have dusky tips.

Three spineless dorsal fins and the small chin barbel separate the Pacific tomcod from any similar-appearing fish, except its cousin the Pacific cod. The Pacific cod has a barbel as long as the diameter of the eye, whereas the Pacific tomcod has a barbel less than one half the diameter of the eye.


The Pacific tomcod can reach up to 1 foot in length.


The Pacific tomcod primarily consumes anchovies, shrimp, and worms.


This species occurs from central California, at roughly Point Sal, to Unalaska Island, Alaska.


Inhabiting depths from 60 to 720 feet, the Pacific tomcod prefers the shallower end of this range and locations with a sandy bottom.