Common name: Coalfish
Record weight: Not as big as other members of the cod family but still a good sized fish, particularly for the boat angler. The current shore best is a fish of 24lb 11oz 12 drams, whilst the boat best is held by a huge fish of 37lb 5 oz.
Distribution: Coalfish follow a similar distribution to other members of the cod family, being found mainly in cooler Northern waters. Whilst they can be found all around the British coast at times, their main strongholds are in the north and east of the UK. Sometimes caught from the shore, but more often found in deeper water only accessible to the boat angler.
Features: Like other members of the cod family the coalfish has a single barbel, although this is very small and may even be absent in some fish. The fish is often mistaken for the pollack, but look for a paler colour and almost straight lateral line. The jaws are almost equal in length and the eye is relatively small.
Diet: Coalfish are primarily fish eaters, hunting down young fish, like young herring, and smaller species, such as sandeels that it catches close to the sea bed. Smaller fish have a higher percentage of crustaceans, particularly shrimp in their diet.
Spawning: Spawning takes place in the spring months in relatively deep water of over 100m deep. The eggs contain a high percentage of oil and so are slightly buoyant. Hatching occurs after about a week and the larvae then drift close to the surface, moving into inshore waters where they spend the first year of their lives. A fast growing species that begins the migration off-shore after one or two years back into deeper water.
Growth: A relatively fast growing species reaching half a pound in weight by the end of the first year. Reaches sexual maturity after about four to five years and can live for more than a decade. Caught in large quantities by commercial trawlers, but provides a relatively poor quality meat compared to cod. Larger specimens though are becoming increasingly rare because of fishing pressure.