Common name: Haddock
Latin name: Melanogrammus aeglefinus
Record weight: A relatively small member of the cod family, yet an extremely important commercial species. Haddock tend to be found in quite deep water, so the boat record is considerably greater than the shore best. Boat anglers should set their sights on a fish to be beat the current best of 13lb 11oz 4 drams, whilst shore anglers should look to the more modest target of 6lb 12oz.
Distribution: Haddock are found throughout the waters of the Northern Hemisphere. Particular concentrations are now found off the East coast of North America and in the Barents Sea off Iceland. In the 19th Century, huge shoals many miles square would mass in the Winter off the coast of Yorkshire as the fish prepared to spawn. Although smaller shoals are still found, over-fishing has led to the end of this natural spectacle.
Features: Haddock are typically cod-like with three dorsal fins and two ventral fins. The leading dorsal fin is much taller than in other members of the family, standing almost as tall as the body. The lower jaw of the haddock is slightly shorter than the upper jaw and the fish has a small single barbel. Colour tends to be dark grey on the dorsal surface, fading to off-white on the belly. There is a distinct black spot above and behind the pectoral fin.
Diet: Haddock are much less piscivorous than other members of the cod family and prefer to feed on slower moving, smaller prey. The bulk of the haddocks diet is made up of small crustaceans, such as shrimps, shellfish, polycheate worms and sea urchins. All of these prey are found in or on the sea bed where the haddock spends much of it's life.
Spawning: Haddock form huge spawning shoals during the latter part of the Winter in preparation for spawning. The eggs are tiny, measuring only 1.5mm in diameter and each female can produce up to one million eggs each year. The eggs hatch after a fortnight and may have drifted many hundreds of miles in this time. The young remain in the water column feeding on plankton until they are around 50mm in length. At this time they move into deeper water and move much closer to the sea bed.
Growth: Haddock are quite slow growing compared to other members of the cod family and may take several years to reach sexual maturity. Haddock are quite short lived and may live for only eight to ten years. Because of over-fishing, larger older haddock are increasingly rare, leading to a population of smaller fish that lay less and smaller eggs, increasing the risk of crashes in the population. Recent increased regulation of the haddock fishery seems to have had little effect on the population and it is still at great risk.