Species: Microgadus proximus; from the Greek words micros (small) and gadus (codfish), and the Latin word proximus (next).
Alternate Names: Tomcod, piciata and wachna.
Identification: Typical cod-like shape with three dorsal fins and two anal fins. Tomcod have a short chin barbel. Their coloring is usually brownish above (although some are olive colored), and white below.
Size: To 12 inches; most caught off piers are 9-10 inches long.
Range: From Point Sal, California, to Unalaska Island, Alaska.
Habitat: Prefers a sandy, near-shore environment, although caught out to 700-foot depths.
Piers: Pacific tomcod are common to almost all piers north of Monterey Bay. Best bets: Pillar Point Harbor Pier, Pacifica Pier, San Francisco Municipal Pier, Fort Baker Pier, Point Arena Pier, Eureka Municipal Wharf, Trinidad Pier and the "B" Street Pier in Crescent City.
Bait and Tackle: When schools of tomcod move in, anglers can expect fast and furious action. The best bait appears to be pile worms, a small strip of anchovy, or a small strip of squid. Hooks should be small, size 6 or 8, and the best technique is to cast out, allow the bait to sink, and begin to retrieve as soon as the bait hits bottom. The tomcod usually will hit the bait mid-depth as it is being pulled up.
Food Value: Most tomcod are really too small for eating although many like to pan-fry them as they would any small fish.
Comments: Fun to catch on light tackle and they provide a major source of fun for children angling in northern areas. Not to be confused with white croaker which are called tom cod by most anglers in southern California (and called kingfish in central and northern California).