Ocean Pout

(Marcrozoarces americanus)

Ocean Pout


The ocean pout, also known as the eelpout, muttonfish, and 'congo eel', can be found in the western North Atlantic Ocean from the vicinity of Battle Harbour, southern Labrador, into the Gulf of St Lawrence, all around the coast of Newfoundland, off Nova Scotia, in the Bay of Fundy, and as far south as North Carolina.


The ocean pout is a bottom dwelling fish, occupying a variety of depths from the intertidal zone down to over 180 m. Pout can be found over all bottom types, but seem to prefer hard and semi-hard substrates to muddy bottoms. They can be found occupying a wide range of temperatures, from sub-zero environments to temperatures as high as 16 degrees Celsius. Seasonal migrations between deeper water in autumn and shallower waters in spring have been reported for this species, and an inshore-offshore migration has also been reported to occur in the eastern Newfoundland area, the fish moving inshore in spring, presumably to spawn.


Ocean pout feed on a wide variety of bottom-dwelling creatures. They feed by scooping up mouthfuls of sediment from a resting position on the bottom. From these gulps of sediment, food is extracted, and prey organisms are generally invertebrates and occasional small fishes such as herring and smelt. Ocean pout are known to feed on marine worms, sea urchins, brittle stars, sand dollars, crabs, shrimp, amphipods, barnacles, mussels, whelks, periwinkles, scallops, and sea squirts. They have been known to reach lengths greater than 100 cm, but this is unusual and adult pout are more commonly between 30-60 cm in length.

Antifreeze Production - Type III Antifreeze

Ocean pout have relatively high concentrations of Type III antifreeze in their plasma year round. However, the winter concentrations are considerably higher than those recorded during the summer months. There is also strong evidence for differences in the pattern of antifreeze production in different populations of ocean pout, which are related to the severity of winter encountered by those different populations.


Fletcher, G.L., C.L.Hew, X. Li, K.Haya, and M.H.Kao. 1985. Year-round presence of high levels of plasma antifreeze peptides in a temperate fish, ocean pout (Macrozoarces americanus). Canadian Journal of Zoology. 63: 488-493

Hew, C.L., D.Slaughter, S.B.Joshi, G.L.Fletcher, and V.S.Ananthanarayanan. 1984. Antifreeze polypeptides from the Newfoundland ocean pout, Macrozoarces americanus: presence of multiple and compositionally diverse components. Journal of Comparative Physiology B. 155: 81-88.

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