Alaska Pollock fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
The Pollock is a popular fish available to anglers from inshore bays to offshore banks and occurs on both sides of the North Atlantic. This species is one of the more deep bodied members of the cod family. Alaska pollock aoccur in the North Pacific from Alaska to northern Japan. A member of the cod and haddock family, pollock is a long, thin, big-eyed fish ranging from 4 to 35 lbs. The back is greenish-brown or a deeper, charcoal color that fades to a silvery belly. It differs in appearance from others in the cod family by having a pointed snout and a projecting lower jaw, a more rounded body, and a forked rather than a square tail.
Alaska pollock or walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), also known as bigeye pollock, snow cod or tomcod, is a North Pacific species of the cod family Gadidae, related to the common Atlantic pollock species of the same family. Species are widely distributed throughout the North Pacific Ocean from Alaska to northern Japan with the largest concentration in the Bering Sea on Alaska and in the Gulf of Alaska.
They are relatively small large-eyed fish that weigh between 0.5-2 lbs ( 230 and 900 g). Alaska Pollock has 3 separate dorsal fins with 38-48 dorsal soft rays and 2 separate anal fins with 33-42 anal soft rays. Dorsal and anal fins are widely separated by gaps. Pelvic fins sometimes have slightly elongated one ray. The lateral line is continuous to about the back end of the first dorsal-fin base with interruption at the read of the body. Head has lateral line pores and a very tiny chin barbel. Its eyes, projecting lower jaw and slim body readily identify Alaska Pollock.
This species range from olive green to brownish green color dorsally on the back silvery on the sides and belly. They lacks the dark lateral mottled patterns or blotches and pale gray to yellow laterally. Young pollock are darker and yellower on the lower sides than are older, larger pollock.
The Alaska pollock is a soft-finned fish that shares many of the same traits and qualities of the pacific cod. It is smaller than the pacific cod, but visually looks similar with its brownish-green mottled back, white sides and belly. Also like the cod, it has 3 distinct back (dorsal) fins and 2 distinct bottom (ventral) fins.
Like other members of the cod family, pollock live on or near the bottom in areas of rocky substrates. They are a mid-water to bottom dwelling fish usually found between 328 to 984 feet depths but have been found up to 3,280 feet deep. Pollock can tolerate temperatures near 32 degrees F, but they are most abundant in temperatures from 51 to 68 degrees F. Large schools of pollock migrate inshore during the spring and move to offshore waters in the colder months. Large schools of younger fish are called "harbor pollock" move into estuaries and shallow bays in the spring. They remain there until dropping inshore temperatures in the fall force them to move offshore to deeper, and at that time of the year warmer, waters.
Pollock are largely daytime sight feeders. Yearlings eat microscopic crustaceans such as copepods. Adults feed on large pelagic crustaceans such as shrimp and small fish such as herring, sand lance, cod, haddock and hake. Unlike the more bottom dwelling cod, pollock will pursue schools of small fish at any depth, occasionally driving them to the surface of the water where frantic splashing can bee seen as the prey attempt to escape. Adult pollock are "cannibalistic"; they sometimes consume smaller pollock. Juveniles feed on zooplankton and small fish (commonly other smaller pollock); older fish feed mainly on other fish. Juvenile pollock occasionally are seen chasing schools of smelt through estuaries in the fall.
Alaska pollock male become sexually mature at 4 to 7 years and females at 5 to 7 years of age. Fecundity (the number of eggs a female produces in a given season) increases with age and size. Pollock have high fecundity, or potential reproductive capacity: female pollock can produce more than 2 million eggs over the course of several weeks. Large females may produce as many as 4,000,000 eggs in a spawning season. Pollock generally spawn during the autumn and early winter in 90 to 300 feet deep. Spawning begins when the water cools to about 48 to 59 degrees F. The buoyant eggs hatch 6 to 9 days after fertilization and the larvae remain near the surface for at least 3 months before moving downward to become bottom dwelling juveniles.
Pollock grow about 5 inches a year for the first 3 years of life, 2 to 4 inches a year for the next 3 years and about 1 to 2 inches a year thereafter. A 5 year old pollock may weigh 4 to 5 pounds and measure up to 25 inches in length and a 9 year old 8 to 10 pounds and 30 inches in length. The maximum age reached by pollock is about 19 years.
Pollock are aggressive, strong fighters that frequently strike at fast moving artificial lures. Anglers pursue pollock from party boats, private boats or shoreline, near structures. Inshore fishing lasts from spring to very late fall, depending upon water temperatures, the presence of bait fish and the fortitude of the angler. The larger pollock tend to gather in deeper, more offshore waters, while younger fish ("harbor pollock") frequent areas of the shoreline. In deeper water, pollock are taken with the same tackle and rigs as those used for cod. Pollock most frequently strike during the flutter downward. While most pollock are caught on mackerel trees and diamond jigs, they are also taken with live bait and teasers, such as clams with entrails hanging off the hook or 1 by 3 inch strips of fish.
In inshore areas, pollock are particularly active around breakwaters and other structures during moving tide. Early morning and evening produce the best results, but pollock can be caught throughout the day. Smaller inshore pollock are often pursued with lighter spinning outfits spooled with 12 to 15 pound test monofilament line. One quarter to 2 ounce lures such as streamers, lead heads, mackerel jigs, Kastmasters and small plugs that resemble sand eels all catch fish. A small strip of squid or other bait added to a metal lure can increase the angler's success.
The pollock's light flaky flesh can be substituted for cod or haddock in most recipes. Pollock can be poached, baked, broiled, grilled or put into fish chowders. Because it has about a third more fat than cod, it's more forgiving and flavorful. Fillets roast, broil, and sautée very nicely. Use the cooked meat, mixed with a potato-and-herb mixture, to make batter-dipped deep-fried fritters.