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vSilver hake, also known as “whiting,” is a small, wide-ranging foodfish that belongs to the same biological order as cod. They can be found along the continental shelf between southern Labrador and South Carolina, and sometimes off the Bahamas although, as a cool-water species, they are most common north of New York. Depending on the time of year, they can regularly be found anwhere between the beach and depths of 1,200 feet or so, although they are sometimes seen in more than 2,500 feet of water Silver hake are aggressive predators. At one time, they were common, during the winter, in the New York Bight, were they frequently chased bait in the surf line after sunset. Such behavior gave them the nickname, “frostfish” for they often overshot the water’s edge while chasing their prey, ending up on the beach, where they froze stiff and could be gathered by people walking along the shore.
Most silver hake caught are between 12 and 15 inches in length, although the largest, which anglers once called “baseball bat whiting,” could achieve lengths approaching 30 inches and weights of over four pounds. The largest angler-caught silver hake on record weighed four pounds, eight ounces, and was caught off southern Maine in 1995. Like other hakes, silver hake have white, good-tasting meat that tends to become soft soon after the fish is caught. Commercially-caught hake are usually not sold for the retail whole-fish market, but instead are used for fish sticks and similar products; as a result, hake bring a relatively low price at the market, typically selling for around $0.75 per pound.
Silver hake once supported a large recreational fishery, prosecuted primarily by the party boat fleet off New York and northern New Jersey. However, that fishery collapsed in the early 1980s; the current recreational fishery is small, with most silver hake caught by bottom fishermen off New England. The commercial harvest now dwarfs the recreational landings. Silver hake are managed by the National Marine Fishery Service’s Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, administered by the New England Fishery Management Council. The stock appears healthy, neither overfished nor subject to overfishing.