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Rocky Shores (Juvenile), Offshore (Adult)
3 - 50 pounds
14" - 51"
The saithe has an elongated silvery body with silver-green scales, three dorsal fins, and two posterior fins. This large fish has a uniformly colored blue-black or charcoal top, and a pale stripe across its side that identifies it from its relatives the European Pollock and the Alaskan Pollock. Saith have even-lengthed upper and lower jaws, and a barbel (a fleshy filament) on the edge of its lower mouth that acts as a distinguishing feature between it and Pollachius pollachius, both referred to as Pollock.
These pelagic fish are strong streamlined swimmers and can migrate over a large range when feeding or spawning. It has been a staple in Norwegian cuisine since the days before refrigeration and remains a commercially important fish today.
Saithe are approximately 20 to 47 inches in length but can grow up to 50 inches. Adults have a lifespan of 16 to 20 years, but can live up to 25 years. The current IGFA All-Tackle World Record is 50 pounds, caught in Saltstraumen, Norway.
The saithe is widely spread throughout the Atlantic Ocean, particularly along the Norweigan coast. They have been documented in the Barents Sea, Spitsbergen, Bay of Biscay, and Iceland in the Eastern Atlantic. In the Western Atlantic, they are in the southwest of Greenland and sometimes swim from Hudson Strait to North Carolina.
In Norway, saithe thrive in the Saltstraumen which is the most powerful tidal current on the planet. This is where massive pressure emanates from 400 million cubic meters of water passing through a narrow passage.
Saithes migrate to spawn but not much is known about their patterns. Seasons may vary but generally occur from September to March, with a peak from November to February in the Western Atlantic. The females can lay between 220,000 to nine million eggs, depending on their size, and can reproduce multiple times.
This species is pelagic and dwells at depths between 200 and 600 feet. Juveniles go closer to rocky shore areas in schools but move outward as they mature, seeking colder temperatures.
Saithes, as a gamefish, are easy to hook with bait and will bite at almost anything. Mackerel, herring, cod, ragworms, and shellfish are all popular choices for anglers when fishing for them and can be baited whole or cut into strips. Artificial baits can be used as well such as plastic sand eels, spoons, devon minnows, and pirks. Generally, a size 2/0 hook with a full barb is ideal to use with these baits since they have enough range strength.
If angling in waters with rough bottoms, use a weak link or rotten-bottom rig to ensure you don’t lose your tackle when fishing. Alternatively, a sliding float rig is also effective, but you’ll need to use a narrow float. A ball or barrel-shaped weight will work well with a sliding float rig, but ensure the distance between your hook and swivel is at least 1 foot. If you’re worried about losing your weights, you can use bolts, nuts, or rocks with naturally bored holes.
Lures are an effective way for anglers to catch the saithe, especially when these fish hunt, which is usually during dawn or dusk. Any bright colored soft lures, such as redgill and jelly between three to five inches will work. Silver or blue soft lures are better in clearer waters, as they resemble sand eels and sprats. Crankbaits and spinners, when used correctly, can be efficient in rocky mid-depth water when they are feeding as well.