Buy Your License Online! Buy Your License Online!

Bottomfish Identification: Cod Fishes

Pacific Cod
Gadus macrocephalus

Commonly caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters using otter-trawls and longline gear.  Recreational harvest within Puget Sound is now closed, with the exception of restricted fishing in the San Juan Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca. See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Description: The body of the Pacific cod is elongate and ranges in color from brown to grey on the dorsal side.  It has brown spots or pale areas on the back and sides, and is lighter on the bottom.  This species has a square caudal fin, 3 dorsal fins, and 2 anal fins.  The first anal fin begins below the front of the second dorsal fin. The fins are somewhat dusky in color and usually white-edged.  A distinguishing characteristic of this cod is the single chin barbell with a length about equal to the eye diameter.

Maximum Size: To 114 cm (3.7 ft) in length, and 22.7 kg (50 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: Up to 13 years old.

Range/Habitat: Pacific cod range from Japan to the Bering Sea and to Santa Monica, California, but are rare south of northern California. They are widely distributed in the cooler regions of the Pacific and adjacent seas.  Pacific cod are usually found near the bottom at water depths of 12 to 549 m (40-1,800 ft).  During the spring they are usually found in shallower waters than in the fall.


  • Eschmeyer, W.N., E.S. Herald and H. Hammann, 1983. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 336 p.
  • Love, M., 1996. Probably more than you want to know about the fishes of the Pacific coast. Really Big Press, Santa Barbara, California, 381 pp.

Photo: S. Axtell, E. Wright and WDFW