Silver hake is a close relative of the cod, although has none of its good looks given its mouthful of sharp, curved teeth and projecting lower jaw. Known as “whiting,” silver hake is named for the silvery iridescence on its skin. The fish typically measures about 14 inches and weighs about five pounds, and lives along the continental shelf from Newfoundland to South Carolina. It is most abundant between Cape Sable and New York.
Silver hake have a dark grey back and silvery belly, and is brightly iridescent when taken from the water. It is slender—about six times as long as it is deep—and has large eyes and a wide mouth. It’s lean flesh softens quickly after being caught, which is why hake is often used for frozen fish sticks and portions.
Silver hake are extremely predacious, feeding on herring, squid and many other smaller schooling fish. Armed with sharp teeth and swift swimmers, they are opportunistic, wandering from seafloor to sea surface looking for food. They migrate in response to seasons, moving toward shallow, warmer waters in the spring. Maturing between two and three years old, females are serial spawners, releasing up to three patches of eggs in a single summer spawning season. The Gulf of Maine is their most prolific nursery, although they also spawn offshore along Nova Scotia. Females produce buoyant eggs that float in the upper stratum of the ocean. Young silver hake begin to seek deeper water toward the end of their first summer or autumn when they reach one to three inches. Older, larger fish prefer deeper waters. They grow to a maximum length of 28 inches (70 cm) and 14 years of age.
This fishery uses a large cone-shaped net that is dragged along the seafloor to catch fish. As the net is towed at low speed, hydrodynamic forces push two "otter boards" outwards opening the mouth of the net and capturing fish in its path.