Cod was what first brought Europeans to America for fishing.  The cod became very popular as a North Atlantic fish and that popularity led to the decline in cod we have today.Codfish1 cod2 cod3 cod5 cod6 cod7

Native Americans first fished for cod using hooks they made from bones and nets from natural materials.  Bones from the cod have been found in middens. (see former Blog Post on Middens)

About the time Columbus came to America there are reports of cod as large as men.  They were very plentiful and could be scooped from the sea in baskets.

The Native Americans showed the Pilgrims how to catch cod as use the parts not eaten as fertilizer.  They also taught them to catch and eat quahogs, clams and lobsters.

The Pilgrims established fishing stations with one in Penobscot Bay, Maine.  They caught the cod by sending two men out in a dory with hand lines.  The fish were dried and salted before being sold to Europe.  A poor quality product of cod called “West Indies Cure” was fed to the slave population in the Caribbean.  Cod fishing made the colonies prosperous.

In the 20’s and 30’s they started using gill nets and draggers to catch cod and the business increased throughout the 50’s.  Factory ships started catching and freezing the fish at sea.

In 1976 The Magnuson Act prohibited foreign fisheries inside the 200 mile zone around the United States.  Cod fish caught commercially has dropped significantly due to strict regulations started in the 1990’s.

Had cod fish never lived in the Gulf of Maine, our American history might have been very different.  Cod was once a natural resource of great political importance.  The fish could be salted, providing a long-lasting good source of protein.  During times of no refrigeration this was very important.

In the 50’s I remember being able to easily catch large cod near the White Islands off Ocean Point using the big wooden hand lines with fish line that smelled of creosote!  Cod was served at a lot of Maine tables in those days.  Salt cod served in a white sauce with eggs and potatoes was popular.  The salt cod was available in little wooden boxes in the markets.  Kids kept the boxes to store treasures in despite the fishy smell.