Atlantic Cod
Typical Size
20-27" (3-10 lbs.)
Decent Size
28-36" (11-20 lbs.)
Nice Size
36-48" (20-50 lbs.)
76.2" (210 lbs.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

30 lbs.
Genus/Species Gadus morhua
Common Names cod, scrod, codfish, codling, rock cod
Hot Spots Stellwagen Bank, Cashes Ledge, Great Southwest Channel
Best Time Year-Round
Best Baits clam, metal jigs, seaworm
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait or jigging

Atlantic Cod vary in color from red/brown to a green/gray on their upper sides, becoming a pale silver/white underneath. They also have a distinct barbel on their chin. It is a heavy-bodied fish with small scales and a relatively large head. It is one of few fish with three dorsal and two anal fins. The mouth has numerous small to medium sized sharp teeth. Coloring changes with environment. Cod near inshore kelp beds may develop a very dark red color, whereas near deep water offshore shellfish beds they tend to be rather pale.
Atlantic Cod
The offshore banks are your best bet to finding big cod.
Atlantic Cod live in a variety of habitats but generally are found at depths of 100 to 400 feet in areas of heavy structure and in temperatures ranging from 40 to 50 degrees. Although cod are bottom feeders, they are predators, not scavengers. Cod seem to have endless appetites and voraciously feed on crabs, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, sand dollars, and sea urchins. They also prey heavily upon schooling fish, eating substantial numbers of herring, sand eels, shad, mackerel, and silver hake.

Atlantic Cod range from Greenland down to New Jersey but undergo seasonal migrations in these more northerly and southerly reaches of their range. On the south shore of Massachusetts, they also move from offshore to inshore grounds, influenced by both temperature and food supply. They can be caught on the offshore banks such as Stellwagen and Georges year-round, but tend to inhabit the inshore waters mostly in the spring and fall. The spring migration to inshore waters tends to coincide with the herring run, whereas in the fall it tends to coincide with the migration of menhaden and tinker mackerel.

It is written that spawning takes place in the winter on the offshore grounds when cod are approximately five to six years old. However, having fished for cod for many, many years I'm not sure I agree with that. Personally, I believe cod reproduce almost year-round depending upon location, and at a much earlier age. My experience has cod reproducing on Georges Bank in February, in March/April on Stellwagen, in May throughout Cape Cod Bay, June at the southwest channel, and July at Coxes Ledge. I also think a cod is sexually mature at 17 inches. How old this is I'm not sure, but I'm sure it's less than five years.

You can fish for cod with many different kinds of bait. Clam is probably the most popular but seaworms and shrimp are just as productive. They will also take cut bait such as herring, squid, mackerel, sand eels, and whiting. A simple tandem cod rig with an 8-16 ounce sinker is sufficient for bottom fishing with bait.

The other popular method for taking cod is jigging. Jigging involves setting up a jig and teaser combination and casting the jig uptide, letting it sink to the bottom, then engaging the reel and bouncing the jig off the bottom several times. Depending upon the strength of the tide, you may lose the feel of the bottom after a while. If so, reel up and start again. Some fisherman also practice a method called "squidding" where they flip the jig and teaser away from the boat, let it drop to the bottom, then engage the reel and quickly take up ten turns and then take five slow turns. If no strike happens they drop the jig back to the bottom and repeat the process until the jig is well under the boat. Using artificial jigs is highly effective when there are schools of baitfish in the area such as herring or sand eels.

Fishing for Atlantic Cod is an extremely important commercial and recreational fishery. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, numbers of charter and party boats take passengers out on all-day cod trips. And from the ports of Boston to Plymouth, commercial fishing for cod is still big business. The flesh of the cod is white, flaky, and very delicate. It is often fried, baked or broiled. Due to it's delicate flavor, it is very important that cod be fresh. Once frozen, cod loses half of it's flavor. Successive thaws and freezes can render the meat tasteless.