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Bottomfish Identification: Cod Fishes

Pacific Hake
Merluccius productus

Commonly caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters using otter-trawls and longline gear.  Recreational harvest within Puget Sound is now closed, with the exception of restricted fishing in the San Juan Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca. See the Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Description: Similar to cods, Pacific hake have an elongate, soft body and square caudal fin. The body is silvery with black speckles on the dorsal side.  The second dorsal fin and anal fin are deeply notched (not separated into 2 fins). This species lacks a chin barbell. The lower jaw projects slightly. The inside of the mouth is black with sharp teeth. Scales are tiny and cycloid, and frequently rubbed off during capture.

Maximum Size: To 44 cm (35.8 in) in length.

Maximum Age: 20 years old.

Range/Description: Offshore stocks of Pacific hake range from Sanak Island in the western Gulf of Alaska to Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur. There are three much smaller stocks with much smaller ranges: a Puget Sound stock, a Strait of Georgia stock, and a dwarf stock limited to waters off Baja California. The offshore stock of Pacific hake is migratory and inhabits the continental slope and shelf within the California current system from Baja California to British Columbia.  They are found near the bottom or in the water column to depths of 914 m (3,000 ft).   They are most common in water shallower than 229 m (750 ft).

Fun Fish Fact: Pacific hake were one of the first fish species to occur in Saanich Inlet following glacial retreat from the region, after approximately 12,000 years before present (BP). Fish abundance and species diversity peaked in Saanich Inlet between 7,500 and 6,000 BP, and the last 1,000 years have seen some of the lowest abundances of fishes in Saanich Inlet's marine history. The close proximity of Saanich Inlet to Puget Sound would suggest that Pacific hake were also likely established in Puget Sound by about 12,000 BP.


  • Eschmeyer, W.N., E.S. Herald and H. Hammann, 1983. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 336 p.
  • NOAA Pacific Hake Fact Sheet

Photos: S. Axtell and V. Okimura