Ocean Pout
Typical Size
17-21" (1-2 lbs.)
Decent Size
22-26" (2-4 lbs.)
Nice Size
27-32" (4-6 lbs.)
39.4" (14 lbs. 5 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

Genus/Species Macrozoarces americanus
Common Names American eel pout, congo eel, mutton fish
Hot Spots Scituate Harbor, Cape Cod Bay, Plymouth Harbor
Best Time April - November
Best Baits clam, seaworm, green crab
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait
Ocean Pout vary in coloration depending upon their environment, but are typically a yellow brown mottled with numerous dark patches of varying color. The dorsal fin is edged in yellow and extends more than half the length of the body, joining the tail and anal fins and giving it an eel-like appearance. The pectoral fins are completely yellow and fan out quite large. The head is large and wider than the body. The mouth has numerous medium size molar-like teeth, and fleshy lips. Male ocean pouts have larger, flatter heads, and much larger, fatty lips. Males are also quite a bit darker than female pouts.
Ocean Pout
Large pout move inshore in the spring to spawn.
Ocean pout are benthic creatures lying directly on the ocean floor. They prefer hard bottoms and rocky areas of structure. Ocean pout range from Newfoundland to North Carolina, but are most plentiful from Cape Ann to Cape May. Ocean pout are quite plentiful off the south shore of Massachusetts where the move in from offshore waters in the spring to spawn. Ocean pout spend the majority of their time curled up under rocks, which is why they are infrequently caught. During the spawning season they are much more active and it is then when the majority of these fish are caught by anglers.

Spawning occurs inshore in waters usually between 100-200 feet deep. A large female pout lays over a million eggs. Once fertilized, the female pout tends to stay curled around the eggs until they hatch. Both males and females feed heavily right up to the time of spawning.

Ocean pout feed on a wide variety of bottom-dwelling marine invertebrates. Clams, mussels, starfish, crabs, worms, sand dollars, sea squirts, sea urchins, periwinkles, and barnacles are particular favorites. They do eat other fish, however, it is not a mainstay of their diet.

You can fish for ocean pout with many different kinds of bait, but clams are definitely the most popular. Seaworms, crabs, squid, and shrimp have also caught pout with varying degrees of success. Ocean pout will also take cut bait such as herring, mackerel, and sand eels. A simple dropper rig with an 6-12 ounce sinker is sufficient for bottom fishing with bait. Target areas of hard bottom where pouts congregate around rock piles for best results.

Although few people in the United States eat them, large numbers of ocean pout are caught up in the bottom gear of commercial fishing trawlers targeting groundfish such as cod and haddock. These fish are part of a wider "bycatch" that is often ground up and made into fish meal.

Fishing for ocean pout is unimportant here on the south shore of Massachusetts, and most of those caught are taken incidental to other species. Although most people I know consider them trash fish and throw them back overboard, the truth is they are very edible. The flesh of the ocean pout is firm, very low in oil and cooks up snow white. A very mild tasting fish, it tends to become very rubbery if over cooked, which is very easy to do, considering the relative thinness of fillets. I personally find that it makes an excellent chowder fish, due in large part because of the fact that it stays together better then any other white fish I know.