Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus)

Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus)

Extremely similar to Atlantic cod, and a member of the Gadidae family, the Pacifi`c cod is an excellent food fish and a good sportfish. It is harvested commercially for fish sticks and fillets and is usually sold frozen. In British Columbia, it is the most important trawl-caught bottom fish, with millions of pounds landed there alone.


Characteristic of the cod family, the Pacific cod has three separate and distinct dorsal fins, two anal fins, and one large barbel under the chin. Its body is heavy and elongated, with small scales, a large mouth, and soft rays. Its coloring ranges from gray to brown on the back, lightening on the sides and the belly. Numerous brown spots speckle the sides and the back. All the fins are dusky, and the unpaired fins are edged with white on their outer margins.

The Pacific cod can be distinguished from the Atlantic cod, which is almost identical, by its smaller body and the pointedness of its fins.


The average size is less than 3 feet, with a weight of 15 pounds or less. The all-tackle record is 30 pounds. Spawning behavior. The spawning season for the Pacific cod is winter and early spring. The eggs are pelagic, or free-floating. It generally lays great quantities of eggs; depending on the size of the fish, a female may release between 1 and 9 million eggs.

Food and feeding habits

The Pacific cod is mainly omnivorous. The adult feeds on dominant food organisms, especially herring, capelin, sand eels, sardines, pollock, and other cod. Its habits are similar to those of the Atlantic cod.

Other Names

cod, gray cod, true cod; French: morue du Pacifique; Italian: merluzzo del Pacifico; Japanese: madara; Portuguese: bacalhau-do-Pacifico; Spanish: bacalao del Pacifico.

Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus)
Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus)


The Pacific cod inhabits waters along the U.S. Pacific coast from Santa Monica, California, to northwestern Alaska. It is common in the U.S. north-west waters of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.


Although primarily a coastal bottom-dwelling fish, the Pacific cod can be found from shallow waters to depths of nearly 800 feet. It prefers rocky, pebbly ground or sandy bottoms in cold water.