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Bottomfish Identification: Cod Fishes

Pacific Tomcod
Microgadus proximus

Caught incidentally in the commercial fishery off the Washington coast with otter-trawls.  Rarely caught by recreational harvesters in Puget Sound.

Description: The body of the Pacific tomcod is elongated and slender and covered with small, thin scales.  It ranges in color from olive green to brownish above, and creamy white below.  The fins have dusky tips.  This species 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 first anal fin begins below the rear of the first dorsal fin.  The Pacific tomcod is distinguished from other similar–appearing fish by its three spineless dorsal fins and the small chin barbell, but is easily confused with a 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, and the anus below the first dorsal fin.

Maximum Size: To 30 cm (12 in) in length.

Maximum Age:  Information is lacking for this species.

Range/Habitat: Pacific tomcod can be found from the Bering Sea to Pt. Sal, California. They are a schooling fish that live on or near soft bottoms of mud, silt or find sand.  As adults Pacific tomcod are found at water depths of 27 to 219 m (90-720 ft). 


  • 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.
  • Cohen, D.M., T. Inada, T. Iwamoto and N. Scialabba, 1990. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 10. Gadiform fishes of the world (Order Gadiformes). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of cods, hakes, grenadiers and other gadiform fishes known to date. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(10). Rome: FAO. 442 p.