|The problem with hake—
PFIC, 2nd Ed.
Species: Merluccius productus; from the Latin words merluccius (an ancient name meaning sea pike) and procuctus (drawn out).
Alternate Names: Cod, hake, silver hake, Pacific whiting, haddock, whitefish, popeye and oatmeal fish. Early-day names included mellusa and meluzette.
Identification: Very similar to cod but the second dorsal fin and anal fin are deeply notched (not separated into two fins). They have a mouth full of sharp teeth. Their coloring is metallic; blackish or iron gray above, shading into silver; black speckles on the back; the lining of the mouth is black.
Size: To 3 feet and around 10 pounds; most caught from piers are 18-24 inches long.
Range: From Magdalena Bay, Baja California, to the Gulf of Alaska and Asia.
Habitat: They're found in deep water, over sand or mud. The schools apparently undertake both vertical and horizontal migrations, inshore and out, shallow water to deep, seasonally. They also tend to rise from their deep-water habitat to the surface at night where they feed on plankton; by daybreak they are once again in deep water. I have caught quite a few hake at the Newport Pier and most were caught either at night or in the early morning hours.
Piers: Hake are generally caught only at piers close to deep water. Best bets: Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, Port Hueneme Pier, Monterey Wharf No. 2 and Santa Cruz Wharf. An exception is the shallow-water Pacifica Pier where a few are caught every year.
Bait and Tackle: Hake will hit almost any bait, dead or alive, but squid works best according to my records. Hake are usually caught by anglers bottom fishing for other species. Medium tackle, a high/low leader, and hooks size 4 to 2 are best. Almost all of these are caught at night.
Food Value: Fair if cleaned and iced down immediately after capture. Failure to do this will result in deteriorated, soft-meated flesh more suited for local Tom cats or nicely scented rose gardens.
Comments: The reason that hake deteriorate so rapidly after capture is due to a tiny parasitic protozoan in their muscle. This nasty little critter, Kudoa paniformis, produces an enzyme which actually liquefies the muscle tissue. When the hake are alive they are apparently able to remove this enzyme quick enough to maintain their Olympian shape. However, after capture by mystified pier anglers, the hake die quickly. Not so for our little friends, the kudoa. They live on for a period of time, continue to produce this enzyme, and the flesh turns to mush. The parasite is in no way harmful to humans (even if eaten alive) but hake mush just isn't considered a delicacy by very many pier anglers. Afterall, pier anglers are considered the Epicurean class among sport fishermen. Many hake are caught by northern California anglers trolling for salmon; they are typically killed and tossed back into the sea. Many are also caught by rock cod anglers fishing the deep reefs out of Santa Cruz. In fact, I've had times when I was pulling in three or four hake at a time when fishing for the more preferred red rock cod—bocaccio, chilipepper, canary and greenspotted rockfish. And I remember one trip out of Stagnaros Sportfishing when the hake were huge, some approaching 10 pounds in weight. Hauling up 2-3-4 of the heavy fish at a time quickly tired out the arms. Usually when the hake showed up the skipper decided to move. Scientists report that hake are the most numerous fish along the West Coast.
Support UPSAC! Preserve pier and shore angling in California.