The coalfish is a member of the cod family. They are common all around the British Isles and Ireland.

They are particularly fond of wrecks, rocks and kelp forests, keeping quite close to these features.

Younger fish will be found closer to the shore, again particularly around rocks – using them as camouflage.

They will grow to over 1m long and weigh up to 30lb, but the average fish caught will be around half that length and weight.


Like all members of the cod family, coalfish have three dorsal fins. They have very streamlined bodies which are silver to white along the flanks and belly, merging to dark green or a brown/green across their backs.

There is quite a lot of confusion between pollack and coalfish, but a glance at the lateral line will help distinguish the two species – the pollack has a curved lateral line, while the coalfish’s lateral line is straight.

If the lateral line isn’t clear, take a look at the jaws. The pollack’s lower jaw protrudes the upper, whereas the coalfish’s jaws are of an equal length.


Adults feed on fish, mainly. They prefer sand eels, capelin, herring – most small open-water fish.

They will stand by wrecks, hanging in the water with their heads up, ready to pounce upon any passing prey that wanders too close.

They can be caught from the shore using squid or crab baits, or caught from a boat using pirks.


Spawning takes place in late winter to spring (January to April), in deep water of between 100 and 200m.

The eggs float towards the surface and drift with the plankton towards shallower inshore waters. Here the young fish will feed upon crustaceans.