Happy Memorial Day. Hopefully, your grilling and family experiences were enjoyable, reminding us of the sacrifices made to make our country great. Grill season is not just for hot dogs. The much-awaited Copper River season opened May 17 to a huge day. There were 155,000 sockeyes caught, five times the forecast, and we haven’t seen a drop-off, spiraling prices downward from traditionally high opening fare. The bright red meat sockeyes are in your local markets and fine restaurants. Ask for a wild Alaska experience. While the sockeye catch is strong, kings are not. Protected inner waters where the kings reside are showing little yield. Additionally, the Northern California season is hampered by high winds. Kings are expected to show in greater numbers this week. Meanwhile, sockeyes will continue through June in Copper River, joined by Kodiak, Resurrection Bay and Southeast Alaska fisheries, followed by Coho openers.
Atlantic salmon prices remain steady to slightly firmer this week, mainly due to the Northeast fillet market showing lighter supply. The Chilean market remains stable with diminished demand, except for the Colorado market. Seattle Fish Company shipped record numbers of salmon, both farm raised and wild, to retail and foodservice outlets over the Memorial Day weekend, giving further credence to the undisputed seafood leader in the Rocky Mountain region. Premium Scottish salmon arrives in Denver three times weekly direct from the farms. Not much fresher than that!
Seattle Fish Company proudly announces an exclusive partnership in our region with Skuna Bay, Vancouver Island craft-raised salmon. Farmers from Skuna Bay will join our staff the week of June 11 to tell the story and show the end result. Premium salmon, hand selected, packed in environmentally recyclable tamper-proof boxes, individually signed by the packer, Skuna Bay always arrives in your kitchen with beautiful red gills, clear eyes, perfect silvery scales and thick, firm, meaty bellies. Certifications include Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) announced on January 9, 2012, an honor and testament to the excellence and sustainable practices of Skuna Bay salmon. Orders will be taken on a preorder basis to ensure best quality. Trust me, your restaurant will soon have a standing order for Skuna Bay.
Trout season is heating up, and as reported previously, Seattle Fish Company is ready to provide all your needs from whole dressed to individual pin-boned single fillets, both natural and red meat. Our vendor partner has assured constant supply, so if we are not your trout supplier, we should be.
Supply is good, and prices are down. Ask for U.S. farm-raised catfish, highly regulated to ensure quality and food safety. Many people praise catfish for its mild, even sweet flavor. Retail markets are once again offering ad prices, and sales are booming. You can grill, bake, bread or sauté; sure to be a favorite for your customers or family. Catfish is raised in the moderate climate of the Delta region, assuring year-round production.
Alaska halibut has taken a backseat to the wild salmon season, but sales for this favored, delicate white meat beauty are strong with steady pricing. We continue to see average sizing smaller than past years. Adequate biomass is giving way to loss of exploitable fish, resulting in lower quotas; likely to be the case next season. As always, Seattle Fish Company supports fishery improvement and sustainability. Better weather has increased supply of ground fish, except Pacific cod. Small pot fisheries have supplied Pacific cod during the off-seasons, but those boats are on salmon or other species.
California troll kings from San Jose and Bodega Bay are unavailable due to high winds. Calm seas in the next few days should bring some large Chinooks to Denver this week. Further south, small corvina bass remains abundant, combined with yellowtail, Baja grouper and natural bay scallops. Live urchin and abalone are available on special request, as is the favored premium roe from the urchin, uni.
Snapper from Mexico is starting to run, as is the California halibut, much less expensive than the northern brethren. We do not, however, generally carry the southern halibut during the Alaska season. But if you are looking for a less expensive, albeit a smaller halibut fillet, check with your salesperson for details.
Limited supply of East Coast ground fish will be the norm until new days at sea open June 1. Quality haddock is pricey, but reasonably priced dabs and cod are available. Wild black bass is a great bargain, so try this sublime, white meat, flakey, delicious fillet on your special fish menu this week. Scallop fishing has shown signs of early spring spawn with areas of mediocre quality, grounds we avoid. Price of U-10s and U-12s remain firm, showing little relief until the closed areas open for fishing later in June. Let’s hope fishing in these grounds is not put off until early July – similar to last year.
The Canadian lobster season opened May 1, but the live market demand is staying strong, hampering frozen production of Canadian lobster tails and causing firmer prices. The live market in Canada and Maine remains steady with bargains in the larger sizes. Our lobster roll customers have opted for these larger lobsters with lower pricing and better meat yields. Expect increased supply of lobsters to keep the live market a relative deal this summer, spiking during the busy periods like the Fourth of July.
As we continue toward summer and warmer waters, quality oyster production will diminish. As always, our oyster buyer will seek out the best quality and availability. Sheer numbers of West Coast oysters because of loss of grow-out days earlier in the year will make procurement a challenge. Additionally, we are entering the spawn season when we look to triploid oysters, which have been genetically altered to become reproductively inactive. These oysters have three instead of the normal two chromosomes, resulting in a firmer, faster-growing oyster. The downside is higher pricing than the regular diploid oysters. Our featured oyster this week is the Naked Cowboy, no not the dude from Times Square. Harvested five days a week from Long Island Sound for the past 15 years, Naked Cowboys are “strongly mineral, a touch iodine, and beautifully briny.” These oysters take up to three years to reach harvest size, adding to the firmness and richness of flavor, according to the grower. You will find Naked Cowboys in the finest restaurants, and they are now in our region. Check with our shellfish experts for details.
Summer is a tougher time to source quality shellfish, but not the case with our hardshell clams from Dennis, Massachusetts. Always a perfect count for menu planning, our clams come from the finest clam-growing region in the world, hand-selected and packed for transport to Seattle Fish Company. Pasta necks, little necks, top necks and cherrystones are on the regular fare. Manila clams from the northwest waters of the Pacific face a little tougher road to your store or table as summer approaches. To combat shelf life issues, we bring shipments more frequently to assure quality.
The Gulf region finally yielded tuna this past week, and prices have softened. Sourcing quality yellowfin and big eye tuna has been difficult, so the current supply is a welcome relief. Snapper and grouper catch is adequate, and our “Gulf wild” fishermen tell us the summer season should be good. Swordfish is a great alternative for summer grilling, but prices look to be firm. Mahimahi prices also remain strong for imports, but domestic production is good, bringing some relief and availability of certain sizes. Gulf shrimp season is opening, so look for fresh offerings in the coming weeks. As for the frozen shrimp market, U.S. demand has been very weak, driving the market lower than current replacement costs. This temporary phenomenon leaves little room for prices to go lower. Increased summer demand will likely drive costs upward as the summer progresses.
Walleye, the most popular of the Great Lakes fish, derives its name from its eyes, like a lion, which reflects white light. This “eyeshine” is a result of light gathering layers in the eyes, which allows good visibility in low-light conditions. In fact, fishermen look for choppy or rough waters and night fishing when feeding occurs for best results. Walleye fishing is good, and supply is consistent. Whitefish, yellow perch and other species indigenous to the Great Lakes are available. Ask your rep for the latest on the Lakes menu.
More availability on the Honolulu fish auction has increased volume of direct shipments to Seattle Fish Company. Our buyers are looking not only for tuna, but opah, domestic mahi, spearfish, monchong, marlins and bottom fish. Looking for a whole opah for a spectacular retail display? We can get it for you. Swordfishing appears to be over for a while, likely creating greater shortage. We give our Hawaiian buyers a morning wish list, get estimated pricing and availability, and give a buy order to be filled within our parameters. Fish is immediately packed and shipped directly to Denver.
Our website is a great resource with our Seasonality Guide and other valuable information about Seattle Fish Company. Check out our wild salmon guide for upcoming fisheries. Hope all had a great Memorial Day break.
Director of Purchasing