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Haddock recreational fishing guide

DMF has created a bycatch avoidance tool, for Atlantic cod in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) recreational fishery, in the form of intuitive map products that identify the time and place where the catch rate for cod is low yet legal sized haddock are abundant. Anglers can use this guide to learn how to download the maps and review regulations and fishing tips related to haddock.

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Although the haddock population in the GOM is at a record high, the Atlantic cod population is near an all-time low. Cod and haddock prefer similar habitats and are therefore commonly caught together, which presents a big problem. Despite managers imposing a prohibition on recreational cod harvest, the discarded cod (“bycatch”)  from haddock anglers has become a leading source of mortality for the cod stock. This has led managers to impose stricter than necessary restrictions on haddock fishing with the intention decreasing the discard mortality of cod.

Key Actions   for Overview

Additional Resources   for Overview

Project goals

The long-term goal of the project is to provide a guidance tool for the recreational fishery to help avoid catching cod while still taking advantage of an abundant haddock resource in the Gulf of Maine. This project was primarily funded through an award from NOAA’s Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program.

About the maps

  • To help reduce cod bycatch, DMF is offering guidance to the recreational fishery by identifying areas where the catch rate for haddock is high, yet low for cod.
  • DMF developed monthly maps of cod and haddock density from trawl survey data, incorporating each species habitat preference, including depth, temperature and seafloor complexity.
  • Fish density were then translated into an expected catch rate for baited hooks.
  • The catch rates were then used to predict areas to target (green = high haddock and low cod catch rates) and areas to avoid (red = high cod and low haddock catch rates).
  • To insure accuracy the maps were validated using standardized fishing trips working with local charter boats.

On average fishing in the green areas provided a 12% increase in haddock catch rates and a 33% decrease in cod catch rates.

Become a citizen scientist!

Our haddock recreational maps were originally based on information from a trawl survey that ended in 2019. That means they will become less useful over time as the distribution of cod and haddock change. That’s where you come in! We’re looking for anglers to voluntarily report their groundfish catch, fishing time, and locations. So, interested anglers should use the link below to register as a citizen scientist. One of our haddock biologists will follow up with further instructions.

Key Actions   for Become a citizen scientist!

Fishing tips

  • If you are out fishing for haddock and start catching cod its best to move to a different spot. Sometimes moving the slightest distance, even 1/4 mile, can make a big difference to your cod catch rates. If you are unsure where to move to use the maps!
  • About 15% of cod will not survive after being released.
  • If you do catch cod, or any fish you are not keeping, make sure to return it to the water as fast as possible. This will give the fish the best chance of survival.
  • Use baited hooks instead of jigs. Jigs have a lower catch rate overall and are more likely to cause injury.
  • Circle hooks have a significantly higher haddock catch rate than “J” hooks
  • Squid is the bait of choice, while haddock will go for a variety of baits squid stays on your hook longer which leads to less time spent reeling up to check or re-bait your hook and more time fishing on the bottom where the fish are.
  • Use braided line as your mainline with a monofilament leader. Braided line has less stretch than monofilament line making it easier to feel subtle haddock bites. The monofilament leader will make it easier to tie your bait rig and make it less visible to fish.


Image credits:  Steve De Neef

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