Every year around the Passover Holiday there is an increased demand for fresh water fish like carp, walleye, and whitefish. Usually, those fish tend to be on the affordable side and readily available. This year, however, is shaping up to be a little different. Winter has been a grueling affair for 2014 and even though it seems long gone, its effects are beginning to disrupt seafood supplies, Great Lakes fish included.
Severe ice has prevented fishermen from getting to dormant walleye pike and whitefish up in the Great Lakes region. In some cases the ice is 4 to 5 feet deep, making it impossible to fill the large holiday orders that are surely accumulating. The fish are usually harvested by either gill net or trap net but, according to sources at Presteve Foods, fresh fish landings across the board will be delayed at least a few weeks.
We have managed to find a few pounds of fresh walleye pike from Lake Eerie, but supply is so tight that we were only able to secure about half of what we have ordered. Whitefish has been even more difficult. We have not been able to find anything other than frozen whole fish and the word from our suppliers is that this will not make it in for the weekend when most are preparing their meals. On top of the short supply, this year we are facing prices 25% to 50% higher than years past. With demand not waning, you can bet on paying more for your fresh water fish this year, probably more than you ever have.
With all the doom and gloom surrounding lake fish, carp remains a bright spot. Supply is lower than usual this time of year, but we have been able to secure fresh fillets that are only incrementally more expensive than in previous years. Carp is caught locally in lakes and rivers and right now we are getting product out of Virginia. Be careful when cleaning carp, as anyone who's ever filleted one will tell you, just when you think you have it de-boned, there always seems to be another layer hiding in the flesh.
The holidays always seem to be chaotic when it comes to procuring fresh seafood, and this dreadful winter has intensified the madness. There is always a race to find product to supply the demand, and often uncertainty rules until the midnight hour. One thing a good market won't do is cut corners to make a deal. With the seafood "arms" race in full effect, be sure to procure your holiday seafood from someone you trust, such as BlackSalt Fish Market. Prices are skyrocketing and product is tight. Be forewarned, however, that these are the conditions in which mislabeling and selling frozen fish for fresh becomes too enticing for some markets to avoid.