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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


Extracts of Matters of Historical Interest from "The Huissier, News For and About the Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff" By The Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff


(September 15, 2003)

The Size & Weight of Cod in the 18th Century

According to Jim Candow, historian and specialist in the fishery at the Parks Canada’s Atlantic Service Centre:  

“The largest cod ever caught weighed 211 ½ lbs (96 kg). Fish in the 80 kg (176 lbs) range were not unknown in this historical period. However, by the early nineteenth century, cod weighing between 45.4 kg (100 lbs) and 72.6 kg (160 lbs) were considered to be large ones. Most cod caught today weigh between 1.5 kg (3 1/3 lbs) and 2.3 kg (4 ½ lbs).”

We have the following account from Charles de la Marandière in 1789 (The History of French Cod Fishery in 18th Century North America)

“Cod Fish: Principal and most abundant fish, capable of becoming quite large up to 100 kilos [220 lbs] and measuring two metres [6 feet] long. This is the exception. Cod weighing 40 to 50 kilos [90 to 110 lbs] are becoming quite rare. Normal size cod would weigh 10 kilos [22 lbs] and measure 95 centimetres [38 inches]”.

Charles L. Cutting, in his book Fish Saving – A History of Fish Processing from Ancient to Modern Times (1955), reveals that for the purposes of preserving:  

“In 1751…the standard cod is that which is 2 feet in length with the head off.”  

“For whatever reason ‘smaller, whiter, better salted fish’ sold for a higher price…”  

For period interpretation purposes we must acknowledge that very large cod were being landed in the 18th century. However for the local salt dried cod industry, the smaller more easily cured codfish (of around 20 pounds, round) were much more desirable and practical for preserving and delivery to market.