Even though it’s looking like winter in this state, imagine fishing the Atlantic now and feeling confident of catching fish for dinner. Then expand this thought a step and imagine taking a week around Christmas every year and fishing at least part of each day with a reasonable certainty that most trips will produce action.
Does this all sound like a fish story? It shouldn’t. This regimen has become an annual tradition for Tom Seymour of Waldo.
In October, large Atlantic pollock (Pollachius virens) schools start moving to piers, floats, docks and other coastal structures, where their population increases into at least early winter.
Seymour loves targeting these small pollock that often go by the colloquial name, harbor pollock. Each year this book author, outdoors writer and living-off-the-land enthusiast fishes Christmas week. He continues chasing pollock until the cold becomes unbearable later in winter.
Seymour began our interview with a rule of thumb about size. When anglers fish ocean shorelines near a coastal river, they catch 6- to 10-inch pollock. In the open ocean and particularly off coastal islands, folks tangle with pollock in the 2- to 3-pound range — on average.
During our chat, Seymour repeated a phrase several times: “ Just like brook trout.”
Early in the interview, he said, “I prefer 8- to 10-inch pollock for eating — just like brook trout of that size.”
A minute or two after that, he said, “Pollock fight wonderfully. They’re strong, fast, tenacious — just like a super-charged brook trout.”
A short while later, Seymour again introduced a new thought with the phrase, “Just like brook trout,” and continued, “pollock prefer lures such as small Trout Magnets and Crappie Magnets, small lure like a Swedish Pimple, bucktail flies with yellow in the wing such as a Mickey Finn or Light Edson Tiger; and baits like clam necks and pieces of shrimp.”
As Seymour said, not many people use clam necks and shrimp for trout. But as a youth, with no worms or grubs in early spring, I got brookies on clam necks and particularly shrimp.
When Seymour fishes for harbor pollock, he chooses a 5-foot ultra-light rod with 3-pound line and finished the description of his gear choice by saying, “ Just like fishing for brook trout in brooks.”
Maine has a 19-inch minimum length limit on pollock. But a special regulation allows folks to keep six pollock per day under the 19-inch minimum to use for bait — an option that particularly appeals to striped-bass enthusiasts. Fish over 19 inches have no bag limit.
Atlantic pollock in the open ocean grow to 43 inches and 35 pounds, but the world record, according to “Sports Fish of the Atlantic” by Vic Dunaway, weighed 50 pounds. It came from Norway.
Pollock routinely reach 15 pounds away from shore and reproductive maturity by age 6, but can reproduce by age 3.
Pollock fight fiercely, according to Seymour. The species possesses great energy, runs incredibly fast and leaps to throw the hook. In fact, in Dunaway’s book, he said, “ By far the best sports fish of this family,” a family that includes cods, hakes, haddock and cusk.
Seymour has two no-fail recipes for pollock:
The first starts with filleting and skinning the fillets and then corning with salt. Before cooking, he soaks corned fillets in freshwater to remove salt, which also firms up the meat. He puts the fillets into a hot pan with a little water and steams the fish until flaky.
The second recipe includes McCormick Seafood Fry Mix for dusting the fillets. Then Seymour puts the fillets onto a lightly buttered pan and bakes in a 425-degree toaster oven until browned and the meat flakes easily.
Seymour said the flavor of pollock resembles cod, but not as flaky, and the sweetness and milder fish taste resemble haddock — not a bad description for enticing the appetite.
My experience with harbor pollock began as a 7-year-old, catching them off a dock in New Harbor. These 8- to 9-inch fish turned soft quickly if we didn’t immediately ice our catch, helping to keep the meat firm.
These small harbor pollock provided fast action, a favorite for a kid who liked lots of excitement and a tasty meal later.
Speaking of harbor pollock, some salty anglers look at them as a different species than the larger, open-water pollock. I’m not getting into this debate but lean toward the scientific explanation.
Smaller Atlantic pollock crowd shallow-water structures near shore to escape predators, where they earned the nickname harbor pollock. In the more confined habitat, they can grow large enough to wander far from shore.
Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at: