A member of the Merlucciidae family, the Pacific hake is sometimes classified as a member of the Gadidae family and thus included with codfish. It is the only representative of the hake family in the Pacific. Common in commercial and sport catches because of its abundance, the Pacific hake is not generally sought for its food value, but it is made into fish meal. Because it does not remain fresh very long, once caught, it must be immediately chilled or the flesh becomes soft and undesirable. Many Pacific hake are caught incidentally by anglers fishing for salmon or bottom fish and are generally discarded.
Pacific whiting, whitefish, haddock, butterfish, California hake, popeye, silver hake, ocean whitefish; French: merlu du Pacifique nord; Spanish: merluza del Pacífico norte.
Identification of Pacific Hake
The body of the Pacific hake is elongate, slender, and moderately compressed. The head is elongate and the mouth large, with strong, sharp teeth. The thin scales fall off readily. Its coloring is gray to dusky brown, with brassy overtones and black speckles on the back. The elongated shape, the notched second dorsal and anal fin, and the coloration separate the Pacific hake from other similar fish in its family.
Size of Pacific Hake
The Pacific hake can grow to 3 feet in length. The alltackle record is 2 pounds, 2 ounces.
Life and Behavior
Spawning occurs in the winter or from February through April, beginning at 3 to 4 years of age, off Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. After spawning, the adults migrate northward to Oregon, Washington, and Canada and return to their spawning areas in the fall. This species is classified as demersal but is largely pelagic in oceanic and coastal areas. Adults exist in large schools in waters overlying the continental shelf, except during the spawning season, when they are several hundred miles seaward.
The Pacific hake feeds on a variety of small fish, shrimp, and squid.
This fish occurs in the Gulf of California (isolated population) and from Magdalena Bay, Baja California, to Alaska.
It prefers a deep, sandy environment and has been reported in depths exceeding 2,900 feet.