Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fishy Status

The summer hasn't really hit for some of us on the East Coast. Well, not much of one anyway as temperatures have kept relatively cool.  There are those on the West Coast, though, who would argue that this is one of the worst summers on record.  Temperatures on our West Coast have been so hot that many oyster beds have been shut down and as of right now there is very little, if anything, coming out of the west oyster wise.  Either way, August is turning auburn as September is creeping around the corner, which means that once again I will give my seafood forecast for fall.  There's certainly some guesswork that goes into making forecasts, which are always vulnerable to the reality of natural forces, so you can guarantee any of this about as much as you can guarantee to catch a fish on a fishing trip. 

August through November usually sees a plethora of fresh, day-boat North American swordfish.  This year fish showed up early and prices remained comparable to last year.  Big, beautiful fish were once again readily available and I see this as a direct result of some great effort put forth by governing agencies and fishermen alike to keep the species sustainable.  HARPOON swordfish season is open, most are coming out of Canada and we should see these fish for at least a few more weeks.  Harpoon swordfish is of the highest quality, boats usually go out to sea and return the same day.  As far as sustainability goes, swordfish stocks are looking great and the by-catch off of these boats is negligible.  

Fall with its cooler weather also stimulates fish to begin 'fattening' up.  This time of year you see great mackerel, black sea bass, grey mullet, trigger fish, albacore, golden tilefish, fluke, striped bass, and grey tilefish.  Mackerel especially get a great fat content during these months, making their flavor stand out.  As far as eating a fish raw, I can't say that there are many better choices during these months, except for bonito.  The southern states, like VA, NC, and FL will begin producing black bass, fluke, mullet, trigger, and tilefish.  Black Bass usually opens in the south in October and MA fish are available now for a short period of time.  NC Fluke season opens in late September and VA season opens in December.  Winter striped bass is one of the best eating fish around town, and the hook and line fish season will open soon.  Striped Bass is usually available locally throughout the winter, closing month to month as quotas are met.  They are always more plentiful during the early weeks of each month.  Triggers, tilefish, and many snappers are fished every week and should start showing up soon and availability usually lasts through the winter.  These fish don't get the notoriety they deserve, so you should definitely give them a try.  The meat is delicious, the stocks are great and its always good to take some of the fishing pressure off of tuna, salmon, and halibut.

Though tuna is available year round, fatty big eye usually spikes around August and September, when quality fish seems to be landed daily.  Yellowfin will usually get better as colder months like November and December roll through.  We can't neglect mentioning the little fish either:  Fresh sardines and fresh anchovies are at their best during the fall months.  This is the time of the year when these smaller feeder fish are exquisite in flavor and offer a small package packed with intense flavor.  It is also important to mention that they are sustainable and are one of the healthiest seafood options out there.

Sockeye season has definitely not panned out like we thought it would back in June.  Landings are way DOWN from the 5 year average.  King salmon and coho are available though, and prices have been relatively good.  Supplies for wild salmon will dry up by the end of October.  Fresh sable has been M.I.A. for a while due to a high overseas demand.  Japan is notorious for paying much more for the fish than our domestic markets will offer and supply is not keeping up with our fresh demands on the East Coast.  Halibut is a surprise hit this year though, as Canadian fish become sustainable expect great halibut options throughout the winter.  The West Coast season will end in November, but the East Coast fish will be a viable option this year.  Also Icelandic cod will open in September, so expect sustainable cod - a traditional wintertime fish - to be available and great quality. 

Fall is a great time for eating seafood.  The summer runs of wild fish are all but over, but with fall a variety of fish begin fattening up, which for us means getting tastier.  As vacations end, school starts back in session and dreams of a pennant fade, keep heart, its not all bad news.  Cooler weather brings new, exciting wardrobes for the city in the form of fall leaves, and delicious, nutrient and flavor-packed meals to our plates in the form of great seafood.  

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