The fall and winter season is known for being THE TIME to devour shellfish of all kinds. This is when the waters cool and bi-valves and crustaceans alike begin to feed heavily and fatten to their fullest. This fattening induces a tremendous amount of added flavor to these delicacies, which provides an added amount of satisfaction to our collective palates. That being said, here is a forecast of what is to come.
Soft shell crabs are usually going out of season around October, but right now cooler water temperatures and predation are causing some supply PROBLEMS. Hard shell crabs are usually best in the cooler months of September and October. It is during this time that crabs begin to fatten up for the winter and the meat is at its sweetest. Just don't expect prices to be in line with last year's deals. This crab year has been "one of the worst" according to many watermen who have worked in this business for more than 30 years. It does not bode well for the fall months if the crabs don't start roaring in soon. There is a small opening of fresh Alaskan king crab in October and November. This opening is usually very short and product is quite costly. Stone crab season really gets going in October and November in FL, and they will be available thorough December. Look for some of the sweetest jonah crab meat available starting in October through the winter.
Shellfish...well, shellfish begin to thrive during the fall months. In fact, this is the best time to enjoy oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops. This is when they are feeding heavily in order to create stores that will get them through the long winter. If I were you I would make a bee-line to the oyster bar and not get up from my seat until I've done my part to replenish the Bay with empty oyster shells. This summer has been one of the worst for West Coast oysters. High temperatures and rainfall have caused many beds to close and supply has been very limited. Once waters start to cool the west will again start producing the sweet varieties we are used to seeing. Mussels and clams will begin to get plumper meats and better flavor. Unfortunately this winter scallop season is not looking ideal. The scallops will be at their tastiest, but PRICES may not be what they have been in the past. I probably don't have to tell you, but everyone's favorite bi-valve comes into season in November - Nantucket Bay Scallops. For this delicacy, there is no equal.
Shrimp season has started and not a minute too soon. Delays to the GULF SEASON have caused prices to sky rocket. Couple that with imported shrimp facing a disease crisis, and you have a very unstable shrimp market. Luckily there is hope as the season is under way. Some of the best domestic shrimp is being landed right now and prices usually come back into this stratosphere during the fall months. Also be on the lookout for fresh NC white shrimp and keep your fingers crossed for the Maine shrimp season. Last year was a complete bust, this year will be a wait-and-see.
Fall lobster pots are going into the water shortly and hard shell lobsters should become readily available soon. Hard shells are known for their superior meat ratio and full, sweet/briny flavor. These beauties will be available through December, but supply usually tightens shortly after the new year.
There's the fall update, now you are fully equipped to know what's in with FISH and shellfish. Its up to you to make sure you get out to the market and restaurants to get your fill of brain food. Keep in mind a lot of this is wild product and as always, its all up to Mother Nature.