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Spotted hake Urophycis regius (Walbaum) 1792

[Jordan and Evermann, 1896-1900, p. 2553.]

Spotted hake (Urophycis regius)

Figure 110.—Spotted hake (Urophycis regius), From Jordan and Evermann. Drawing by H. L. Todd.


This species is distinguishable among the hakes of the Gulf of Maine by the fact [page 231] that it has no prolonged rays in its first dorsal fin (which is hardly higher than the second dorsal, and has 8 or 9 rays); by the smaller number of rays in its second dorsal fin (46 to 51 as against 54 or more in the squirrel and white hakes); and by having only 90 to 95 oblique rows of scales along its sides from gill opening to caudal fin, instead of about 105 to 110 rows and about 140 rows, respectively, in the other two species. The anal fin has 43 to 49 rays, somewhat fewer, on the average, than the squirrel or the white hake (48 to 50).

Convenient field marks are that the outer half of its first dorsal fin is black with a whitish margin; that its pectoral fins reach back as far as the origin of the anal fin, whereas they fall considerably short of the latter in both the white and the squirrel hake; and that its lateral line is darker brown than the general body color, instead of paler, and is interrupted by a series of distinct whitish spots. Otherwise the spotted hake, like the commoner hakes, is dull brown, darker above than below, with dorsal and anal fins of the same color as the back. Its ventrals are whitish.


The largest of many measured by Welsh at Atlantic City, in August 1920, were about 16 inches long, and weighed between 1 and 1½ pounds; the usual length is less than 12 inches, and the longest, of about 600 taken by the Albatross II at 14 stations between the offing of Delaware Bay and Cape Hatteras, in late winter and spring (1930 and 1931) was 51/8 inches (130 mm.).


The spotted hake resembles the other hakes in its habits. It may be more of a fish eater, for Vinal Edwards noted that the few he examined at Woods Hole contained alewives, menhaden, launce, and squid. But it also feeds on the crustaceans on which the white and squirrel hakes subsist, for Hildebrand and Schroeder[49] found mysid shrimps in most of those examined in Chesapeake Bay where small spotted hake are very common. The capture of spawning fish by the Albatross, off the coast of the Carolinas in December in 1919, recorded in Welsh's field notes, is evidence that it is a winter breeder.

General range—

Coast of the United States, regularly from southern New England and New York to Cape Hatteras (including Chesapeake Bay where it is plentiful), and ranging southward as far as the offing of northern Florida in deep water.[50]

Many were trawled as far northward as the offing of Delaware Bay by the Albatross II, in 1930 and 1931; it is reported as rather uncommon at New York;[51] it has been taken occasionally at Woods Hole; it has been known to reach the coast of Maine as a very rare stray; it was reported more than a century ago off Halifax, Nova Scotia, by Richardson;[52] and a single specimen was reported as taken, pelagic, near Sable Island (lat. 44° 10', long. 59° 45') in August 1931.[53]

Occurrence in the Gulf of Maine—

The spotted hake strays past Cape Cod so seldom that specimens taken off Seguin Island many years ago, and four, trawled on the southwestern part of Georges Bank, by the Albatross III in May 1950, are the only definite records of it for the Gulf of Maine.[54] But it may well have been overlooked among the hosts of young hake of the two common species (white and squirrel) that are caught in [page 232] the southwestern part of the Gulf every year, for 49 spotted hake were taken south of Block Island, in 47 to 67 fathoms, January 27 to February 3, 1950, by the dragger Eugene H.

[49] Bull. U. S. Bur. Fish., vol. 43, pt. 1, 1928, p. 161.

[50] The U. S. National Museum has specimens taken off Charleston, S. C., at 87 and 124 fathoms.

[51] Nichols and Breder, Zoologica, N. Y. Zool. Soc., vol. 9, 1927, p. 169.

[52] Fauna boreali Americana, vol. 3, 1836, p. 253. Richardson's woodcut of the specimen in question, from a sketch by Lt. Col. Hamilton Smith, shows the low first dorsal with black apex that is characteristic of the species regius.

[53] Report, Newfoundland Fishery Res. Comm., vol. 1, No. 4, 1932, p. 109.

[54] This species was also listed from Ipswich Bay. from Casco Bay, and off of Monhegan Island in the Grampus collections of 1912 (Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. vol. 58, No. 2, 1914, p. 113), but it is probable that these specimens were white hake in reality.