Wild Salmon: Gone, Baby, Gone

A few weeks ago, I posted about the nutritious, flavorful, fresh, wild salmon that has been available in our 650 markets. Sadly, as many good things do, the commercial fishing season for wild salmon has come to an end.

Fresh, wild Alaskan salmon fillets, purchased in the 650
Fresh, wild salmon fillets, purchased in the 650

Our California king salmon fishing season actually ended a month ago, and we’ve been seeing fresh, wild salmon arrive from points further and further north — first Oregon, then Alaska. Well, the supply is all but finished for the season now. If you’re lucky enough to find any fresh, wild king or coho salmon in the market, it’s coming from Alaska, and grab it while you can! My two 650 fish sources — Cook’s Seafood and Whole Foods — say that there’s maybe a week left before all of the fresh, wild salmon goes bye-bye.

Frozen is still a good option, according to my sources, however. Wild salmon caught at sea is flash frozen on the boat within 24 hours of the catch. In terms of preserving the nutritional value, it’s not a bad choice. Just as a point of comparison, transit time for fresh, wild fish from boat to your store can take a couple of days. I still buy previously frozen West Coast salmon from time to time throughout the fall and winter, but the texture isn’t quite the same as fresh.

Not to worry, though, there are still plenty of wild, local, seasonal fish in the sea — some of it from here in the 650. Half Moon Bay fishermen provide much of the cod, sole, and snapper that we’re seeing in local markets now. And our commercial Dungeness crab season is set to start on November 15 (sport fishing for Dungeness crab starts today!).

Getting to know your local fish supplier — whether at your grocery store, farmer’s market, or community fish share (yes, there is such a thing!) — goes a long way to ensuring that you’ll get the freshest local, seasonal fish. Not seeing fresh, local fish in your grocery store, or not happy with the selection? Don’t despair, there are a few things you can do!

Start a Conversation
Best way to find out what you need to know about fresh, local fish options? Strike up a friendly convo with the person working the fish counter where you shop.

Fish fillets in mid-peninsula grocery store
An assortment of fillets in the 650: Bay Area Rock Cod, tropical Mahi Mahi, and previously frozen King Salmon. Which would you choose?

If you shop one store regularly and like their fish selection, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the sources of their seafood (wild or farmed?), usual delivery days for specific products (so that you can get the freshest pieces), and whether you can call ahead or special order something. And, one more thing: don’t hesitate to ask for a fresh cut of something if the fish in the case is looking a little tired (think: swordfish with a brown bloodline or brownish tuna with a rainbow “sheen”).

As a consumer, you have a right to know what you’re buying and its source.  (Think about it: this is something you’re putting into your body, so shouldn’t you know where it’s from and how it’s been raised?) Need another reason to know the source of your seafood? A recent article by Takepart references two different studies in which fish has been mislabeled in some grocery stores and restaurants. Shop with stores and vendors you trust, who are willing to answer your questions, and to provide the best quality product.

Shop Your Local Farmers’ Markets
Farmers’ markets aren’t just for fruits and vegetables any more; they’re also a good source of handcrafted foods (jams, dips, chocolates), dairy products (pastured eggs, cheese), and yes, fresh fish. A few local fishermen sell through farmers’ markets, typically bringing their fish to market within 24 to 48 hours of the catch (realize that availability will depend on the weather and season). Late-running and year-round markets, such as the Moutain View Farmers’ Market, Palo Alto’s Sunday Market, and Coastside Market in Half Moon Bay are good places to check for local fish.

Whole fish in the case
Got mad DIY fish skills? Save money and buy direct from the fisherman.

Make a Trip to Pillar Point Harbor
There’s good fishing right off Half Moon Bay, and some fishermen will sell their catch directly from the boat. Want to know what’s fresh and available before you make the drive? Call the Pillar Point Harbor office (650-746-8724, ext. 3) for details; they have a recorded message on their voicemail with the latest info. If you do plan to purchase directly from the harbor, plan ahead and take an ice-filled cooler with you so that you can keep your purchase cold and fresh on the drive home. Lacking mad fish skills or don’t want to clean your own fish? Take your purchase to nearby Princeton Seafood Company, where they’ll do the dirty work for you (call for pricing).

Let the Fish Come to You
Too busy to hit the market or take a drive to Pillar Point? Let the Bay Area’s fresh fish come to you. Taking a cue from farmers, some fishermen now participate in Community Support Seafood (CSS) subscription services. Much like the Community Supported Agriculture services (CSA, aka “farmers’ market box”), you buy a “share” based on the amount of seafood you want (number of people/servings) and frequency of delivery. You’ll get a seasonal assortment pulled from our Bay Area waters — Monterey Bay, Half Moon Bay, and some points north — delivered either to your home or neighborhood, depending on the plan. Two to consider: H&H Fresh Fish, based in Santa Cruz, and Siren Fish Co., based in San Francisco.

Want to try out direct-to-your-home fish delivery that offers choices from a variety of local fish services before committing to a CSS? You can order loins and fillets of local, seasonal fish directly from GoodEggs, with no delivery fee — and they’ll deliver direct to your door.

So, yes, I’ll miss the sight of bright orange salmon at my local fish place, but there’s no lack of wild, local fish available for my 650 dinner table — and plenty of options for getting them there. With all of these healthy, readily available fish choices, there’s no reason not to eat local. So put that frozen, who-knows-where-it-came-from shrimp back in the freezer case and get yourself some fresh, local fish for dinner!


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