Common name: Whiting
Latin name: Merlangius merlangus
Record weight: Although one of our most common fish, whiting are a relatively small species with a shore caught record of just 4lb 7drams and a boat record of 6lb 12oz.
Distribution: Found from Iceland to the Northern Mediterranean. Does not appreciate warm water, so tends to be found in deeper, cooler water in the south of it's range. In cooler areas the whiting differs from other members of the cod family in preferring water less than 50m deep even as adults. Often found inshore and a very common shore catch in many parts of the British Isles during the Winter months.
Features: Sandy-green on the back with silver sides and a distinctive black spot at the base of the pectorals. Normally less than 60cm in length and more slender than cod. The whiting lacks the single barbel of other members of the cod family.
Diet: Because of it's small size, the diet of whiting is more limited than that of other members of the cod family. This bottom living species tends to feed mainly upon crustaceans, shrimps and small fish, particularly young herring. Shoals of whiting are voracious small predators with well defined senses that they use to hunt prey over long distances around our shallow sandy coasts.
Spawning: Whiting spawn during the Spring, although the exact timing is dependent upon local water temperatures. In the southernmost parts of their range spawning may take place as early as January, whilst further North spawning may not take place until almost six months later. Each 45cm long female can produce up to 300,000 eggs. The eggs and young, which hatch in around two weeks, drift in the Oceans currents feeding upon plankton for the first few months of their life. Once they reach a length of around 8cm the whiting move down through the water column becoming much more benthic.
Growth: Whiting are a relatively slow growing species, thanks in part to their reliance upon a mainly crustacean diet. This diet is not as rich as that of other members of the cod family and so their growth is consequently much slower. Whiting mature at a length of around 45cm at an age of 4 years. They may live for twice this age growing throughout their lives and spawning each Spring. Interestingly, the male whiting are not only smaller than their female counterparts, but also tend have shorter lives.