The river is green in Chicago. Soon, you'll be able to find loose beads from broken, cheaply made necklaces and empty, oversized decorative beer mugs scattered in the gutters of Boston thoroughfares. We have already lost an hour, but the days are getting longer. It must be March. As our social schedules fill faster than the sun becomes brighter, it's a good time to take a look at what's happening in the seafood biz in the next few weeks.
Wild salmon are already appearing sporadically in the market as folks are getting geared up for the oncoming season, which usually gets going in April and then revs up in May. What's more exciting is that these early fish aren't as cost prohibitive as they have been in the past, so that could be a sign of good things to come. That's great news considering that the farmed salmon market is about to take a turn for the worse. Chile, which is the second largest producer of farmed salmon in the world, took a big hit this year when they lost over 24 million fish due to a toxic algal bloom killing over a quarter of their fish. This hole in the supply chain will cause farmed salmon prices to continue to rise for the rest of the year, especially spiking in the next few weeks as doom and gloom speculation takes hold and Lent draws to an end.
Maryland crab season opens in just a couple of weeks and I think we could be seeing soft-shell crabs from the southern states even sooner. The Gulf season is underway and domestic meat is beginning to trickle in. Expect soft-shell crabs to really get going in May and domestic crab meat to be readily available even sooner.
Both halibut and sable (black cod) seasons open this week on the west coast. Fish should be hitting eastern markets by the weekend. Get your forks ready, but don't jump on the first fish you see. Pricing usually starts out strong but relaxes after the first week or so. Remember, the seasons are open until November, so you have plenty of time.
Our local striped bass season is open, but will be closing soon. This is a fish you should be gobbling up pronto. By the end of April you will have a really hard time finding our beloved wild rockfish in any shape or form until the summer months. You have been warned.
Domestic mahi season opens in May but, in the meantime, there is some really nice fish coming from Central and South America. Prices will fluctuate until April/May, but this fish should remain affordable for the next couple of months.
Shad roe runs continue to make their way north, going from state to state. This season has a few more weeks and recently the sets have been coming out of Georgia and South Carolina. North Carolina product will be here before you know it.
Be on the lookout for some great warm weather selections such as Spanish mackerel, amberjack, fluke, tilefish, snapper, black bass, albacore, wahoo, john dory, bluefish and triggerfish. These fish should be hitting the ice as waters warm up and the boats drop lines. Their availability can be sporadic at times, but each offers an excellent opportunity to enjoy a unique experience. Eat domestically all summer long and get the most out of what our robust waters have to offer.