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Red Hake

Urophycis chuss

Red Hake

Also Known As

  • Ling
  • Squirrel hake

U.S. wild-caught red hake is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

The northern stock is above its target population level. The southern stock is significantly below its target level and fishing rate promotes population growth. A rebuilding plan is being developed for the southern stock.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels for the northern red hake stock. At levels to reduce overfishing for the southern red hake stock.

Habitat Impacts

Fishing gears used to harvest red hake have minimal impacts on habitat.

Bycatch

Raised-footrope trawls are required in designated areas when targeting hake to minimize bycatch of other species.

  • Availability

    Year-round.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from Maine to North Carolina.

  • Taste

    Mild and slightly sweet. Hake can be substituted in many dishes calling for pollock or cod.

  • Texture

    Hakes have softer flesh and are less flaky than other whitefish such as cod, haddock, and pollock.

  • Color

    Raw and cooked hake is white to off-white.

  • Health Benefits

    Red hake is a good source of selenium, vitamin B, magnesium, and protein.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council manage the red hake fishery.
  • Managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan for Small Mesh Multispecies:
    • Permitting requirements.
    • A cap on the amount of groundfish bycatch that fishing vessels can take.
    • Seasonal and spatial limitations on fishing with small mesh nets throughout the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank.
    • Trip limits by mesh size and area.
    • In-season trip limit reductions and catch monitoring help prevent excessive catches.
  • The small-mesh multispecies fishery is managed primarily through a series of exemptions from the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. Exempted fisheries allow vessels to fish for specific species, such as red hake, in designated areas using mesh sizes smaller than the minimum mesh size allowed under the Regulated Mesh Area regulations.

Harvest

  • Commercial fishery:
    • The 2020 landings of red hake totaled 690,000 pounds, and were valued at $315,000, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database.  
    • Red hake is part of the small-mesh multispecies management unit, along with silver hake and offshore hake. This three-species complex is sometimes marketed together as whiting.
    • Red hake are usually a bycatch species in the small-mesh fisheries that target whiting (silver hake) and squid.
    • Low value and limited domestic market for red hake result in high percentages of discard which account for about 60% of the annual catch.
    • Red hake are frequently used as bait in the lobster and tuna fisheries. Some are also sold as fillets.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Fishermen using small-mesh trawl gear to catch red hake must comply with a number of specific requirements to reduce bycatch of larger groundfish species.
    • In designated areas, fishermen are required to use raised-footrope trawls, which are designed to keep the net off the bottom to reduce the bycatch of flatfish and other species.
  • Recreational fishery:
    • Recreational fishermen do not target red hake but sometimes catch them incidentally while fishing for other groundfish.
    • There are currently no restrictions on possession, size, or gear-type for red hake caught recreationally in federal waters.
    • There are no specific areas for the recreational fishery.

The Science

Population Status

  • There are two stocks of red hake: Gulf of Maine/Northern Georges Bank and Southern Georges Bank/Mid Atlantic. According to the most recent stock assessments:

    • The Gulf of Maine/Northern Georges Bank (northern) stock of red hake is not overfished and is not subject to overfishing (2017 stock assessment). Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.

    • The Southern Georges Bank/Mid Atlantic (southern) stock of red hake is overfished and subject to overfishing (2017 stock assessment). Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.

Location

  • Red hake are found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and range primarily from Newfoundland to North Carolina.
  • They are most abundant from the western Gulf of Maine through Southern New England waters.

Habitat

  • The northern stock of red hake inhabits the waters of the Gulf of Maine and Northern Georges Bank, and the southern stock inhabits the waters of Southern Georges Bank and the Mid-Atlantic Bight.
  • As nocturnal, semi-pelagic predators, red hake move up in the water column to feed at night, primarily between dusk and midnight. They return to rest on the ocean floor during the day, preferring sandy, muddy, or pebbly ocean bottoms.
  • Red hake migrate in response to seasonal changes in water temperatures, moving toward shallow, warmer waters in the spring.
  • They spawn in these shallow waters during late spring and early summer and then return to deeper waters in the autumn.
  • Juveniles seek shelter from predators in scallop beds and commonly hide underneath sea scallops.
  • Older, larger red hake prefer deeper waters.
  • During the summer, portions of both stocks can be found on Georges Bank.
  • During the winter, fish in the northern stock move to deep basins in the Gulf of Maine, while fish in the southern stock move to outer continental shelf and slope waters.
  • Red hake are widely distributed, and have been observed at temperature ranges of 2 to 17° C (36 to 63° F) and depth ranges of 11 to 500 meters (36 to 1,640 feet). However, they are most commonly found in temperatures between 7 and 10° C (45 to 50° F).

Physical Description

  • Red hake vary in color depending on their environment. Most tend to be a reddish brown to olive-brown color with pale tan spots on their sides and shades of white on their undersides.
  • They are a member of the cod family and have a barbel (whisker) on their chin.
  • Their dorsal fin is triangular, but their second dorsal and anal fins are long, continuous, and do not attach to the tail fin, much like an eel.
  • They have a small head, but a large mouth with many small teeth.

Biology

  • Red hake are a member of the cod family.
  • They do not grow as large as white hake and normally reach a maximum size of 50 centimeters (20 inches) and 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds).
  • Females are generally larger than males of the same age, and reach a maximum length of 63 centimeters (25 inches) and a weight of 3.6 kilograms (7.9 pounds).
  • Although they generally do not live longer than 8 years, red hake have been recorded up to 14 years old.
  • Red hake feed primarily on crustaceans such as decapods and rock crabs as well as fish such as haddock, silver hake, sea robins, sand lance, mackerel, and small red hake.
  • Primary predators of red hake include spiny dogfish, cod, goosefish, and silver hake.

Last updated: 09/09/2021