Merluccius, commonly known as Hake, is any of the several marine fish species in the Gadidae cod family group. Due to skeletal variations in the skull and ribs, they are often categorized as a different family called Merlucciidae. In terms of marine goods, the Hake is the species that have been overfished the most in the Mediterranean. 

This haddock and cod cousin, known as “merluza” in Spanish, is a serious candidate for the title of most popular fish in the country. Its filets have a pleasant taste and are crispy. Hakes were overfished to the point of extinction in the 1990s, along with many other groundfish, and their biomass lingered close to or below the acceptable ecological threshold for about ten years.


Hakes are long-headed fish with huge, keen teeth. They have two dorsal fins, with the second being longer and having a little notch in the center. The pelvic fins are positioned very far forward, ahead of the pectorals, and the anal fin is likewise long and notched. The caudal fin has a serrated border and is well-developed. The backdrop color is deeper and more angular than the lateral line. Its underbelly is creamy, and its back is blue-gray with silvery sides.

Close-up of a nocturnal European Hake.
Close-up of a nocturnal European Hake

It is a medium- to large-sized fish, weighing 1 to 8 lbs on average but reaching 60 lbs in certain individuals. With a lifetime of up to 14 years, the fish may reach a maximum length of 3 feet, 3 inches.


Hakes are fast, predatory fish that are eaten despite having relatively soft flesh. Hake consumes a greater variety of foods, including more euphausiids and decapods. Hakes are energetic, fuss-free predators that eat any smaller fish they can find as adults.

They will enthusiastically consume any fish they come to encounter, including mackerel, herring, thus the name herring hake, pouting, sand eels, squid, codfish, and others. Hunting down smaller members of their own species is not something they are opposed to. The infants eat crabs.


Hakes are semi-pelagic, nocturnal predators that travel up in the water column at night to prey, mostly between twilight and dawn. During the day, they come back to rest on the ocean floor, favoring muddy, gravel, or sandy bottoms. From Norway and Iceland south to the Straits of Gibraltar and south along the west coast of Africa to Mauritania, the eastern Atlantic is home to Hake, which is widely spread in the Mediterranean Sea as well. 

Hake school swimming together.
Hake school swimming together

Although it stretches into the Black Sea, it is only found along its southern shores. Hake can be found in a larger variety of depths, from inshore waters as little as 98 ft down to 3,300 ft, but it is typically found at depths between 230 ft and 1,200 ft.


Most female Hake reaches sexual maturity in their 7th year, when they are about 22 inches long, whereas males reach sexual maturity in their 5th year, when they are about 16 inches long. The females have a reported fecundity of 2 to 7 million eggs per female, and they grow more quickly than the males.

The largest egg production happens about 660 ft or so below the surface. Depending on the direction of the current, the larvae are either washed farther out to sea or deposited in designated nursery zones. The eggs hatch after two months, and the young Hake remains close to the murky seabed during the day and climbs to graze at shallower depths at night.


Hakes’ natural predators include dogfish sharks, dolphins, sea lions, and Humboldt squids. However, the biggest threat to Hake is humans and mass fishing practices. In the 1990s, Hake was overfished to the point of extinction, and for about ten years, their population was close to or below the safe biological limit. The capacity of a fish to reproduce and preserve its species is compromised when this reference point is exceeded, making it a risky threshold to cross.

Sizeable Hake active during night time.
Sizeable Hake active during night time

With a yearly intake of 13 lb per person, Spain has the greatest consumption of hake in both Europe and the entire world. Hake still makes up nearly one-third of all fish consumed in Spain, despite a ten-year fall in hake and other fish consumption.

Facts about the Hake

  1. Hake will resort to cannibalizing their young ones.
  2. Hakes swim together in small schools.
  3. In the wild, Hake has a 14–15 year lifespan.
  4. Hakes cannot survive in temperatures lower than 39.2°F.
  5. Hakes are nocturnal predators.


Is Hake high in mercury?

Hake is well renowned for having minimal mercury content; a 100-gram serving only contains 7 to 38 milligrams. While the majority of people are thought to be safe around this quantity of mercury, certain pregnant women, elderly individuals, and young children might want to limit it.

What is the closest fish to Hake?

Cod and haddock are substitute species for Hake. Hake has a simple, delicate flavor that combines a trace of salt and the flavor of cream. The flesh has a delicate texture, and the skin is simple to digest.

Are there worms in Hake?

Worms, or nematodes, are common in fish, including cod, flounder, hake, pollock, and haddock, as well as whiting and mackerel, which is disturbing; however, they can be removed with thorough knife work.

Are Hake fish dangerous to humans?

While Hake is a carnivore that consumes flesh, its teeth are not adequate to hurt a human in any meaningful way. Hakes don’t possess any form of venom, making them completely harmless. On the contrary, humans are the most dangerous to them.

About Ocean Info

At Ocean Info, we dive deep into ocean-related topics such as sealife, exploration of the sea, rivers, areas of geographical importance, sailing, and more.

We achieve this by having the best team create content - this ranges from marine experts, trained scuba divers, marine-related enthusiasts, and more.

Sea Anemone with Clownfish

Dive into more, the ocean is more than just a surface view

Bottlenose dolphins are known to help stranded humans back to the shore

8 of the Most Intelligent Marine Animals

From dolphins' awe-inspiring communication skills to orcas' social complexity, the ocean is home to some of the most intelligent marine animals.