PRIMARY FISHING METHOD:
• Soft flesh caused by poor handling.
• Some species have soft flesh and bruise more easily than others.
• Yellowing (indicates older fish).
• Whiting is an excellent value that can be used in a wide variety of applications.
• Not as lean as cod, whiting have more flavor.
• A good "all-you-can-eat" fish for cafeterias and buffets
The most abundant fish resource off the West Coast, Pacific whiting are also one of the best seafood values around. Every spring, huge schools of whiting migrate up the coast to waters off Oregon and Washington, where they are scooped up by trawlers and headed and gutted, filleted or processed into surimi. Their clean-tasting, white meat is easily adapted to a variety of applications, from fish and chips to pan frying or baking.
Pacific whiting, or Pacific hake as it is sometimes called, is a member of the Merluccidae family, which includes more than a dozen species around the world that are marketed as either hake or whiting. Pacific whiting, Argentine hake and SouthAfrican hake (Cape capensis) are the most abundant species in this family. There are several distinct stocks of Pacific whiting, Merluccius productus. The largest is the "outside" stock, which migrates from Baja California to British Columbia. In most years, this stock will produce landings of more than 250,000 tons. Smaller "inside" stocks of whiting are fished in Puget Sound and in the Strait of Georgia in British Columbia. Landings from this resource are normally about 20,000 tons.
These fish are normally smaller than "outside" whiting. Most whiting are less than 2 pounds in size. After spawning in the winter off Baja California, whiting migrate north to feed off the Pacific Northwest coast. They form huge schools that can be several miles long and, as a result, are easily caught by trawlers. Over half of the whiting caught off the West Coast is processed into surimi, which is used to make shellfish analogs. Pacific whiting once had a reputation of being something of a problem fish because of a parasite that can turn its flesh quite soft when it was cooked.
Better handling on the boats and in the processing plants, however, has eliminated this problem. In recent years, West Coast processors have invested in highly mechanized plants to handle Pacific whiting as efficiently as possible. As a result, they now produce a variety of high-quality products including skin-on, IQF boneless fillets. Pacific whiting fillets are usually sold skin-on because of their delicate flesh. Because of its higher oil content, Pacific whiting have more flavor than cod or pollock.
The Midwest is a popular market for Pacific whiting, which may be sold under a number of unique regional names. In St. Louis, for example, Pacific whiting is sold as "jack salmon." Off the West Coast, factory trawlers that fish for whiting use coops, which eliminates the race to catch the quota. Coops allow the fishermen to focus on increasing their yields by producing the highest possible quality product as efficiently as possible.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Merluccius productus
Pacific whiting, Pacific hake, "jack salmon" (Midwest).
Whole to H&G: 56%; whole to skin-on, boneless fillet: 43%; whole to skinless, boneless fillet: 30%.
PRODUCT FORMS: FRESH:
FROZEN: H&G, skin-on, boneless IQF fillets, surimi.
STORAGE & HANDLING:
Frozen H&G and fillets have a shelf life of 9 months at -5 to -15°F
This white, clean-tasting flesh can be prepared in a wide variety of ways. It has a higher oil content than cod or pollock, and therefore is somewhat more flavorful. It is good in fish and chips, pan-fried or baked. Try it with lemon or a creamy dill sauce for a nice accompaniment.