Black Cod or Sablefish. Ian G. Taylor, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Black cod or Sablefish: everything you need to know about Anoplopoma fimbria

What is Black cod or Sablefish?

Anoplopoma fimbria, more commonly known as black cod or sablefish, is an exquisite fish species found in the North Pacific Ocean from Alaska to California. The seafood delicacy holds immense value due to its unique and incomparable taste that can be recognized by famous chefs around the world. In this blog post, we will provide you with a comprehensive overview of black cod–from taxonomy and morphology to distribution, habitat ecology, diet preferences, reproduction habits and fisheries management.


Black cod is part of the Anoplopomatidae family, which encompasses skilfish and other deep-sea fishes. Uniquely, it is the only species within its genus: Anoplopoma – derived from Greek for “unarmed cover”, alluding to its absence of scales or spines on its body. Furthermore, ‘fimbria’ (its species name) comes Latin for ‘fringe’, accurately depicting the barbel with fringed edges located on their chin.


With a maximum length of 1.2 meters and weighing up to 18 kilograms, the black cod is an impressive deepwater fish with dark brown or black coloration on its back and sides, contrasted sharply by its silver or white belly. Its body has an elongated cylindrical shape, tapering into a small tail fin. It features a large head framed by tiny teeth and round fins except for the dorsal fin that merges into the anal fin in one continuous line. To hunt prey it relies upon fringed barbels located near its chin.

Distribution and Habitat

The North Pacific Ocean is home to black cod, stretching from the Sea of Japan to Alaska and eventually California. This species prefers a sanctuary between 600-1,200 meters beneath the surface of water with hard or muddy substrates that provide sheltering and nutrition for them. Occasionally they are present in waters as deep as 300-2,700 meters.


The black cod is a fierce predator, devouring an array of aquatic creatures including lanternfish, herring, squid, octopus and crustaceans. Its wide mouth and sharp teeth can overpower its prey in seconds as it swallows them whole. Black cod are scavengers that won’t hesitate to feast on the dead or wounded fish as well as smaller black cod.


Black cod is an extraordinary species, boasting a life expectancy of up to 90 years! Typically the males reach maturity at 10-15 years old and are smaller than their female counterparts. From January through April, these mature females disperse their eggs in deepwater habitats where they are externally fertilized by males; within several weeks, the embryos hatch into planktonic larvae that drift for months before eventually settling on the seafloor.


The black cod is a highly sought-after species in both commercial and recreational fishing, due to its succulent flesh and remarkable size. To ensure sustainable exploitation of this fish, harvest limits for the commercial sector are imposed along with bag and size restrictions for those engaging recreationally. This helps to preserve abundant populations of these prized creatures while allowing anglers who follow regulations the opportunity to bring home exceptional catches!

How to catch black cod?

Black cod, also known as sablefish, is typically caught using longline fishing methods in the deep waters off the coast of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. However, recreational anglers can also catch black cod using several different techniques, such as:

  1. Bottom fishing: Anglers can net black cod by using a range of bottom-fishing tactics like bait-laden hooks or plunging jigs from boats, docks, and piers. This method is considered to be the most efficient way to haul in this particular groundfish.
  2. Trolling: Anglers looking to reel in black cod can use trolling as an effective technique. This involves trailing a bait or lure behind a boat while in motion, providing the perfect opportunity to land these fish. Lures and jigs are often used for this purpose, making it easy and rewarding when done correctly.
  3. Pot fishing: Pot fishing is an effective strategy used by both recreational and commercial fishermen to lure bottom-dwelling fish into baited traps, or “pots,” placed on the sea floor. With this approach, anglers can easily net black cod in great quantities.

Prior to setting out to capture black cod, it is essential that you confirm local fishing laws and acquire any appropriate licenses or permits. Don’t forget to use sustainable angling practices and only nab what you plan on eating or releasing back into the water.

Is Black cod healthy?

A 3-ounce (85-gram) portion of cooked black cod packs a nutritional punch with 153 calories, 20.3 grams of protein, 7.3 grams of fat, 1.4 grams of saturated fat, and an impressive 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids! It also contains 39 milligrams of cholesterol and 63 milligrams of sodium.

Black cod is an excellent source of quality protein, containing all the essential amino acids your body needs. Additionally, black cod has abundant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA – crucial for mental clarity, cardiovascular health and general inflammation reduction. It’s also packed with vitamin D which bolsters bone strength and immune response while providing selenium; a key mineral that acts as a powerful antioxidant.

Furthermore, black cod is low in calories and sodium, making it the perfect selection for those conscious about their weight or salt intake. It’s important to keep in mind that this fish, just like all other types of seafood, may contain mercury and environmental pollutants so it’s ideal to consume in moderation – especially for pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children.

How to cook black cod / how to cook sablefish?

Black cod, also known as sablefish, is a delicious and versatile fish that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Here are some methods for cooking black cod:

  1. Grilling: Grilling black cod is easy and hassle-free, as it’s a firm fish that can withstand high temperatures. Firstly, set your grill to medium-high heat and lightly grease the grates. Then brush each fillet with olive oil before sprinkling them generously with salt and pepper for seasoning. Finally, place the prepared pieces on the preheated grill. They should take 4-5 minutes per side to cook thoroughly.
  2. Baking: Enjoy the deliciousness of black cod by baking it using this simple and straightforward technique. Preheat your oven to 400°F before lightly oiling a baking dish and adding in your desired fillets. Season with salt and pepper, then top with olive oil or melted butter for added flavour. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cooked through, you’ll know it’s ready when the fish easily flakes apart with a fork.
  3. Pan-searing: For a succulent and tender fish dish, try pan-searing black cod. Begin by heating one tablespoon of oil in your non-stick skillet on medium to high heat. Once hot, generously season the fillets with salt and pepper before setting them into the pan. Let each side cook for 3 – 4 minutes until both sides are golden brown and cooked through completely. With its crispy crust exterior accompanied by its perfectly moist inside – this is sure to be an unforgettable meal.
  4. Poaching: Poaching is a simple and effective way to cook black cod with maximum flavour retention. Start by bringing water or broth of your choice in a large saucepan up to a gentle simmer. Add aromatic ingredients like garlic, ginger, and herbs and season with salt & pepper before adding the fillets. Simmer for around 5-6 minutes until cooked through.

No matter how you prepare your black cod dish, make sure to test for doneness by inserting a fork into the meatiest part of the fillet. When cooked through, it should be opaque and separate easily with a fork. Serve alongside delicious sides like steamed vegetables, rice or salad.

Why is black cod so expensive?

Black cod, also known as sablefish, is a type of fish that is highly prized for its delicate, buttery texture and rich, flavorful meat. There are several reasons why black cod can be expensive:

  1. Limited supply: Black cod is caught in limited quantities, as it is a slow-growing fish that is only found in certain areas of the world. This limited supply can drive up the price of the fish.
  2. High demand: Black cod is a popular fish among chefs and food enthusiasts, particularly in Japan and North America. The high demand for the fish can also contribute to its high price.
  3. Difficult to catch: Black cod is often caught using longline fishing methods, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Additionally, black cod is a deepwater fish, which makes it more challenging to catch and process.
  4. Processing and transportation: Black cod requires careful processing and handling, including skinning, deboning, and packaging. The fish is also typically transported long distances, which can add to the cost.

Overall, the combination of limited supply, high demand, difficult catching and processing, and transportation costs can contribute to the high price of black cod.


Black cod is a unique and valuable fish species with a fascinating morphology, habitat, diet, and reproductive biology. Its commercial and recreational fisheries are carefully managed to ensure sustainable exploitation and conservation of the species. Understanding the biology and ecology of black cod is important for the effective management and conservation of this important North Pacific fishery resource.

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