Red hake are somewhat of an incidental catch for deep-water anglers and have become less signiﬁcant to commercial trawlers. Although not considered overexploited, red hake are now caught commercially at much lower levels than previously.
The body of the red hake is elongate with two dorsal fins—the second one long—and one long anal ﬁn. Its coloration is variable, but the sides are usually reddish and often dark or mottled. The ﬁns are not dark-edged, as they are in some other hake, and the pelvic ﬁn rays are shorter than those of other hake.
The maximum length reached by red hake is approximately 50 centimeters, or about 191⁄2 inches. Their maximum age is reported to be about 12 years, but few ﬁsh survive beyond 8 years of age. The all-tackle world record is 7 pounds, 15 ounces, which is their known maximum size; the common size is roughly 2 pounds.
Red hake winter in the deep waters of the Gulf of Maine and along the outer continental shelf and slope south and southwest of Georges Bank. Spawning occurs from May through November, and significant spawning areas are located on the southwest part of Georges Bank and in southern New England south of Montauk Point, Long Island.
Food and feeding habits
Red hake feed primarily on crustaceans, but adult red hake also feed extensively on ﬁsh.
Red hake are found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to North Carolina but are most abundant between Georges Bank and New Jersey. Research from bottom-trawl surveys indicates that red hake have a broad geographic and depth distribution through out the year, undergoing extensive seasonal migrations. Two stocks have been assumed, divided north and south in the central Georges Bank region.
These ﬁsh generally occupy deep water over soft or sandy bottoms. Although juvenile ﬁsh may frequent shallow water along the coast, adults typically migrate to deeper water, generally between 300 and 400 feet deep, although reports indicate that they exist at depths greater than 1,650 feet.