Chesapeake Chapters and Challenges – October 19, 2015

By October 19, 2015Fish Facts

Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a world unto itself, and Crisfield has been a seafood town there since the birth of our country. Much of this Chesapeake fishing community was literally built on oyster shells. To this day it remains fairly well removed from the main land and holds tightly onto its heritage as the last English holdout after the Revolutionary War. The accent there is called “Tangier”, named after the nearby island ‘discovered’ by English explorer John Smith. It’s a very distinct accent, most closely related to a British accent, and still very apparent today.

A treat from Crisfield is Blowfish (cousin to the poisonous Fugu), a non poisonous species called Northern Puffer, locally known as Swellen Toads or “toads” for short. They also call them Chicken of the Sea because of their meaty white tails that can be prepared and eaten just like a drumstick. Fishermen convert crab traps with slightly larger holes to catch these tasty fish through the fall and for a short period in the spring. Tony at the dock in Crisfield describes the sweet meat as clean and white with a pinkish hue and firm around the tail/back bone.

Across the bay near the mouth of the historic James River, fishermen continue to land large volumes of invasive Blue Catfish. For years, Rocky Rice made his living primarily by fishing two of the Bay’s most iconic species: striped bass in the spring and blue crabs much of the summer. But after several years of poor blue crab catches, and with new catch limits on striped bass being put in place, Rice added one of the Bay’s most troublesome species to his mix: blue catfish. “Thank goodness they’re good to eat.” Rice said. “Can you imagine if they weren’t? They would take over the whole river in no time. They’re already trying to.”

An estimate 75,000 dead fish washed up on Virginia’s Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake after a net owned by a large industrial fishing operation that harvests menhaden for fish meal, fish oil, and fertilizer tore. Omega Protein said the incident happened Oct. 7 when one of its nets aboard a boat snagged as a crew was pumping in a load of fish. Menhaden, the forage fish that feed striped bass and bluefish, are called by Bruce Franklin “The Most Important Fish in the Sea”.  They need our protection.

Amy Wirtz along with Julie Russell and Julie’s nephew, Steven Reis Jr. with the season’s first Stone Crab claws on the dock in Tarpon Springs, FL

Chef de Cuisine Erik Waybright prepares Montauk Squid as Calamari al forno at the Parallel Post in Trumbull, CT

Further south on Florida’s west coast, Stone Crab season opened last week. Our friends at Pelican Point in Tarpon Springs, FL  offloaded late into the night with the first landing from the F/V Bite Me Too (can’t make that up). The season will run until May but the first few weeks are the most productive. Pricing is strong, but they are spectacularly delicious, and the rule of thumb on this fishery is GRAB THEM WHILE YOU CAN.

We got a short video of the F/V Sharon G offloading some monster swordfish at Gosman’s Dock in Montauk, NY. And we are forever amazed by what octopus can do, as evidenced in this video. Those eight legged creatures are from another planet.

All the best,

from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team

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