What is a Rock Cod?

Misty Amber Brighton

Rock cod is a fish that actually does not belong to the cod family, but instead is more closely related to a grouper. They are found off the shores of southeastern and southwestern Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. They are also found off the shores of the Great Australian Bight, an open bay on the southern end of the continent. These fish are sometimes called beardie, especially in Australia.

Rock Cod feed on other small fish that swim along the ocean floor.
Rock Cod feed on other small fish that swim along the ocean floor.

Beardie are temperate fish. This means that unlike most other fish species, their body temperatures do not fluctuate to accommodate changes in water temperature. Types of fish like the Rock Cod must therefore live in waters that have a fairly consistent, warm temperature throughout the year.

These fish are typically yellow or reddish brown to dark purple in color. They have a margin, or outline, around their fins, which is generally a slightly lighter shade of red than the rest of the body. They also have barbels, or whisker-like appendages, on their chins. The species is usually around 20 inches (50.8 cm) in length. Its body appears somewhat flat when viewed from the side, while the head looks large and rounded.

These fish inhabit underwater caves in ocean bays, and are also found along coastal reefs. Rock cod usually prefer to stay in waters that are from 33 to 295 ft (10 to 90 m) deep. They also gravitate to clear ocean waters, and are often found swimming in the open, in small groups.

Rock Cod feed on other small fish that swim along the ocean floor. Approximately 80% of a Rock Cod's diet is comprised of sea goldie, which is also known as goldfish. Rock Cod may also feed on small crustaceans, such as crayfish, shrimp, or spider crabs.

This species live in groups that have only three to thirteen members. There is usually only one male Rock Cod fish per group, with two to 12 female fish. One of the females will be dominant and act as the protector of the group and its territory.

In Australia, fishing for Rock Cod is done year-round by both private and commercial fishermen. The flesh of this fish is white, flaky, and tender. The taste is slightly sweet and mild with a somewhat fishy taste and odor. The fish contains very little fat, so it is a healthy meal choice. It is delicious when fried, but is also popular smoked or in sushi dishes.

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