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Learn about Atlantic cod

Atlantic cod are common in Massachusetts waters. Read on to learn more about the Atlantic cod.


  • Inshore Atlantic cod are usually smaller than offshore cod. Inshore cod range from 27-34 inches in length and weigh between 6 and 12 pounds, while offshore Atlantic cod are usually 40-42 inches long and weigh 25 pounds, but some can grow to be six feet long. 
  • Atlantic cod are usually grey-green or red-brown in color with the exception of their belly which is typically white. They also have dark spots which fade along the sides. 
  • Atlantic cod have 3 dorsal fins and 2 anal fins, which mirror the second and third dorsal fins.
Atlantic cod

Atlantic cod facts

  • Species name: Gadus morhua
  • Atlantic cod spawn in the winter. Adults swim offshore to reproduce. Smaller females have around 2.5 million eggs while large females can have up to 9 million eggs. Larvae hatch after 10-40 days and are 0.2 inches long.
  • Small Atlantic cod eat shrimp and other small crustaceans while adults eat many types of shellfish as well as herring, mackerel, capelin, and young haddock.
  • Pollock and larger cod are some of the species that prey on young Atlantic cod. Adult cod are hunted by spiny dogfish, sharks, and marine mammals.
  • Atlantic cod are usually found between 200-440 feet deep, but have been seen as deep as 1200 feet.
  • MA Division of Marine Fisheries manages the Atlantic cod fishery within 3 miles of shore. Past 3 miles the fishery is regulated by NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council.
  • New England waters used to be filled with Atlantic cod, but because they were such popular fish, the advances made in fishing technology has led to a decrease in cod numbers.
  • Cod meat is mildly flavored and doesn't taste fishy. It flakes into large pieces. While raw the meat is translucent but turns white when cooked.
  • Atlantic cod are found throughout the northern Atlantic ocean, from Greenland to North Carolina on the western side, and in Scandinavia. Atlantic cod are also known to undergo seasonal migrations.
Atlantic cod distribution map

Additional Resources

Angling tips

  • Atlantic cod are very popular fish for recreational anglers. When fishing for cod it is recommended that you use a 7.5-9 foot rod and a 4/0 reel. 50 pound test Dacron line is also recommended. Jigs with teasers as well as bait are useful to catch cod. Typical baits include:
    • Sand lance
    • Mackerel
    • Strips of herring
    • Crabs
    • Clam

Contact   for Learn about Atlantic cod


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(617) 727-3337


Gloucester Field Office
30 Emerson Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930

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