Angler Lands World Record Red Hake Off Jersey Coast
The NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed that Billy Watson from Lansdale, Pennsylvania has officially become a member of an elite fishing club by catching a new state and IGFA world record Red Hake, Urophycis chuss. The 12 pound 13 ounce fish, also known as a Ling, was caught on February 20, 2010 approximately 20 miles ESE of Manasquan NJ. The fish measured 33 inches in length and had a girth of 19 inches. It surpassed the previous state record of 11 pounds, 1 ounce set in 2002 by Natalie Jones for a fish caught off Brielle.
Billy was bottom fishing at the Mud Hole on the Jamaica II with Captain Steve Spinelli at the helm when he hooked the big fish. He was using a St Croix medium heavy rod and a Diawa Satist 20H reel loaded with 50-pound Power Pro line and a Gulp 2” Glo Shrimp for bait.
Red hake are rarely known to attain weights exceeding 6 or 7 pounds, so this particular fish can truly be considered a monster hake. White hake on the other hand are very similar looking and known to attain weights of as much as 40 pounds. Since the two species are so similar and the weight of the fish Watson caught was more in the white hake range, marine fisheries biologists diligently examined the fish to confirm its identification and its world record status.
Division of Fish and Wildlife marine fisheries biologists first examined the fish and counted scale rows and the gill rakers on the upper portion of the first gill arch, which are both reported to be valid diagnostic characters. The initial examination showed the fish to be a red hake. The identification was then confirmed by ichthyologists at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia who x-rayed the specimen to determine the number of abdominal vertebrae, another diagnostic character. This too identified the fish as a red hake and it has been added to the Academy's extensive fish collection.
The red hake can be found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to North Carolina, and is most abundant from the western Gulf of Maine through Southern New England waters. They are a member of the cod family and as such possess a distinctive barbel on their chin. Red hake vary in color depending upon their environment, but tend to be a mottled red/brown to olive/brown on their upper sides with large irregular pale light brown patches becoming a dirty white to bright white underneath.
Red hake prefer soft sand or muddy bottom, and feed primarily on crustaceans and rock crabs, as well as fish such as haddock, silver hake, sea robins, mackerel and small red hake. Primary predators of red hake include spiny dogfish, cod, goosefish, and silver hake.
With identification of the fish confirmed, Billy can now enjoy his new world record holder status and rest assured that his catch will definitely be a hard one to beat!