When fishing for haddock, a simple bait-fishing rig is your best bet for catching a limit of keeper-sized haddock while safely releasing smaller haddock and cod.
Haddock, a smaller, silver-scaled relative of cod, have reached high levels of abundance in the Gulf of Maine. Unfortunately, Atlantic cod, which often feed in the same areas as haddock, are overfished. Fishery managers have enacted strict regulations on cod possession for the recreational fishery, but they are frequently taken as bycatch when fishing for haddock.
Researchers from the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MADMF), and Rutgers are collaborating on studies that could help recreational anglers reduce accidental mortality of released cod. A study comparing different terminal tackle (including bait rigs, jigs, J-hooks, and treble hooks) found that a simple bait rig worked best for limiting the number of cod caught, maximizing the number of haddock caught, and causing less physical trauma to hooked fish.
Benefits of Using a Simple Bait Rig for Haddock*
1) Your catch rates will be higher! You will double your catch rate of haddock if you use baited hooks instead of a jig.
2) It will help you avoid cod. You are more than 2.5 times more likely to catch haddock than cod when using baited hooks.
3) You will injure the fish less. Jigs are at least 10 times more likely to severely injure cod or haddock.
Download a diagram of the Best Bait-Fishing Rig for Haddock (pdf)
*These recommendations are a product of a multi-year collaborative research effort. The Division of Marine Fisheries, the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center, Rutgers University and UMass Dartmouth worked with the recreational fisher industry to study release mortality in the Gulf of Maine. Funding for this project provided by NOAA’s Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program. (Award #NA17NMF4720253)
Support from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation made this outreach project possible.