No limit

With two friends, I had spent the day fishing for halibut on Kachemak Bay. The bay was flat calm, so we decided to fillet our fish there instead of in the harbor. Since there wasn’t space in the 20-foot skiff for all three of us to fillet, I ended up aft while my buddies cleaned fish forward.


After tidying up the boat, I ran out of things to do, so I thought I’d try jigging. We had about 100 feet of water under us, and there wasn’t much tidal current, so I’d be able to get a light jig down without the current sweeping my line off the bottom. I had just started free-spooling my jig toward the bottom when a cod grabbed it. Without a word, I reeled it in and slid the fish forward along the deck, where it joined our earlier catch of six halibut and two or three cod. My buddies, with a large control console standing between them and me, didn’t even notice the addition, so I went back to fishing.

Not everyone in this fish-rich part of the world keeps cod. Some fishermen chop them up and use them for halibut bait. As for me, if given a choice between a halibut and a cod, I’ll choose the cod.

I hear people say they don’t like cod because they have worms (the cod, not the people). Yes, cod do have worms, but so do many other fish species, including halibut and salmon. In the white, translucent flesh of a cod, worms are easily seen and removed.

Anyhow, back on Kachemak Bay, we apparently had a school of hungry cod right under the boat. I hooked one every time I dropped a jig over the side. Cod don’t struggle much, so I was able to pull in several with my buddies none the wiser. By the time they caught on to what I was doing, it was starting to get dark. They told me to reel in and stop fishing, adding dire threats about what would happen if I didn’t. It wasn’t so much that they were irked about having more fish to fillet. They, too, liked cod. What bothered them was that I was fishing while they were working. We ended up with as much cod as halibut.

The cod we’re talking about is the Pacific cod, also known as P-cod, grey cod, true cod and Alaska cod. The average weight is probably under 10 pounds, but a big one can weigh as much as 55 pounds. Cod are easy to catch, when you can find them. After several months in a freezer, cod still tastes good. Another good thing about Pacific cod is that there’s no bag limit.

A big advantage cod has over halibut is that it’s more moist. If you cook halibut a little too long, it becomes dry and chewy. Cod is much more forgiving. I’ve ruined halibut many times by over-cooking it, but never cod. It makes tender and moist pieces for fish and chips.

A friend recently gave me a fresh cod — maybe 3 pounds — that he caught while fishing on Kachemak Bay. I filleted and skinned it, sprinkled on a little salt, pepper and smoked paprika, and sauteed it in olive oil. With cole slaw and corn on the cob, it made a perfect, light dinner.

The next time you reel in a cod while fishing for halibut, think twice about using it for bait. Cod is too good to feed to fish.

More information:

How to fillet a cod:

How to skin a fish:

How to jig for halibut and cod:

More about cod:

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Les Palmer can be reached at