Silver Hake
Typical Size
10-12" (4-8 oz.)
Decent Size
13-15" (3/4-1 lb.)
Nice Size
16-20" (1-2 lbs.)
31.3" (4 lbs. 8 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

Genus/Species Merluccius bilinearis
Common Names whiting, new england hake, frostfish
Hot Spots Stellwagen Bank, Stone Ledge, Cape Cod Bay
Best Time September - December
Best Baits seaworm, herring, clam, shrimp
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait
Silver Hake have an overall silver iridescent color on their sides with some light brown relections mixed in. Color is slightly darker above and nearly pure white on the underside. Fins are silver tinged with light brown. Silver hake have two dorsal fins. The first being almost a perfect triangle, the second dorsal being about four times greater in size. Athough a member of the cod family, they do not possess the distinctive barbel on their chin that is common with this family. It is more elongated than the cod, but not as eel-like in appearance as the red hake. It also does not share the red hakes long ventral fins. Scales are very small and the head is relatively compressed. However, the mouth is large and filled with very sharp needle-like teeth.
Silver Hake
On the south shore, silver hake move inshore in numbers in the fall.
Silver hake can be found from Nova Scotia to the Chesapeak Bay depending upon water temperature and food availability. They prefer water temperatures in the 45-50 degree range but can tolerate warmer temperature better than other members of the cod family. In the winter time they move far offshore to the outer banks, and, as the inshore waters warm, will move all the way back to the inshore waters, sometimes as close as the shoreline. The south shore typically sees the majority of our silver hake from the second half of the summer through the fall. They frequent area of structure but do not hang around for any length of time as other species do. They seem to prefer some type of broken bottom, but it is not unusual to find them in completely clear sandy patches either.

Silver hake are ravenous feeders, aggressively pursuing prey made up largely of other fish, mostly juveniles. Silver hake swim better than most members of the cod family, the pollock being the exception as the fastest, and will attack a school of small baitfish with the voracity of a bluefish, sometimes stranding themselves on the beach in the process. Their diet mainly consists of juvenile herring, mackerel, butterfish, cunner, and smelt. In addition, they will also eat shrimp, squid, and crabs, if the opportunity presents itself.

Like other members of the cod family, silver hake are very prolific breeders. Spawning takes place in the summer. Once the eggs are layed and fertilized, they float to the surface where they hatch in as little as two days later. Young-of-year silver hake immediately travel to the offshore waters where they stay all winter. They grow quickly, and after just one year are about 6-7 inches long. Growing slows a bit after that with two year old fish being about 10 inches. By the third year, they are spawning age and about a foot in length.

Few southshore fishermen specifically target silver hake when they go fishing. They do, however, make up part of the multitude of inshore species that are available to bottom-fishing inshore recreational boats. They put up a fight on light tackle, but are two small to offer much sport to game fishermen. If you wanted to actively fish for silver hake, you would find that they will accept many different kinds of bait. Seaworm is probably the most popular but shrimp and chunks of herring or clam will also take them. The most productive fishing occurs at night (when they feed most actively) with baits of seaworm or shrimp on a simple dropper rig . Fishing areas of broken bottom with a 1-3 ounce lead sinker to hold bottom is best.

Articial lures also work well on silver hake with small diamond jigs and spoons in the 1/2-2 ounce range best. Spinning with the same gear used for fluke will also attract and catch silver hake in fair numbers.

Fishing for silver hake is only moderately important for commercial fisherman, making up a portion of the by-catch that is usually frozen or ground up for fish meal. If marketed whole, it is usually fresh fish taken by inshore day boat. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, some silver hake are incidentally caught by charter and party boats that take passengers out on flounder or cod trips. The flesh of the silver hake is light, flaky, and with a delicate sweetness that loses much of its flavor when repeatedy frozen and thawed. It is often used in chowders or fish cakes and is best fresh. Demand for silver hake is generally low and marketed as whiting.