Lingcod: A Fish of Many Colors

This whitefish is sometimes a neon green or blue fish!

Lingcod: A Fish of Many Colors

Upon receiving June’s first lingcod shipment in Galesburg, Illinois, Sitka Salmon Share’s warehouse manager Dr. Thunder was alarmed. A few of the lingcod portions intended for our CSF share boxes—6 pieces of the initial 4,000 pounds—had a blue or green tint to them. “What’s wrong with this fish?” he asked, disgusted, delegating the blue-green portions to the “not for sale” pile.

After getting his inquiry about the strange phenomenon, the crew in Sitka assured him that this color variation is, indeed, normal, and no cause for concern. Like many wild fish that consume diverse diets, lingcod’s flesh color varies. Most lingcod are light beige or whitish gray with pinkish bellies. However, about 20 percent of lingcod have florescent green or blue flesh.

No one knows precisely what causes this variation, but biologists believe the strange green or blue hues indicate that the lingcod have consumed a diet rich in chlorophyll, eating more plant matter—green algae through small crustaceans—than the rest. Among Sitka locals, these fish are fondly referred to as “smurf cod.” While nutritional comparisons remain unclear, some people believe green and blue varieties of lingcod are healthier—and even tastier—than their more common counterparts. Regardless of its initial coloring, all lingcod meat turns bright white when cooked.

Our fishermen note that green and blue lingcod are more common in shallower fishing grounds. Since most of our lingcod was caught in deep waters, Sitka Salmon Shares received only a very small amount of “smurf cod” this year. Consider yourself special if you received some!

Since learning that this fish is perfectly fine, the Midwest staff has been on the hunt for the lucky green fillets. “I think they’re really cool now,” said Thunder.