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Ask a Fishmonger: Is Fish Seasonal?

  • Wulf's Fish
  • 2 min read

Get the answers to all your fishiest questions in our new feature, Ask a Fishmonger.

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Asks Richard S: Is fish seasonal? Like fruit, is it better to eat certain fish at specific times of the year? 

Our head buyer, Richie Taylor (hear more from him in the video below), who’s been with the company for over 40 years, gave us the answer:  

“The short answer is yes, there’s better times of year to eat certain fish. The complicated answer is, you go by the fish itself.” 

The striped bass fishery along the Atlantic coast is highly seasonal. As the fish move over from the Mid-Atlantic up through New York and into New England, local seasons phase in and out while observing a strict quota system.

What does he mean, exactly? There are a number of factors that add up to getting specific types of fish at peak quality, from migration patterns to how the fish were handled post-catch, says Taylor. He explains:  

Fish move around, explains Taylor. For example, striped bass is at its peak right now in New England. When they head south as the water cools down, we can still get stripers from South Carolina into the fall. “Not quite as nice,” he says, “but still nice.” Taylor likens the difference to apples from New England in the fall — even when we’re past our peak season locally for apples, we can still get really good ones from Washington State. “There’s a peak season and a peak time for every fish, but there’s also a peak time for those fish in other areas,” he says.  

 

“There’s a peak season and a peak time for every fish, but there’s also a peak time for those fish in other areas,” he says.  

 

Water temperature and weather also affect a fish’s quality, he says. For example, squid are on the move in the mid-spring and mid-autumn, again when water temperature is changing. That’s a good time to catch them, because they’re traveling and more easily spotted. But it’s also a good time to haul them in — rather than in hot summer weather, where quality could deteriorate more quickly due to the heat. Taylor points out, “Let’s say you catch 10,000 pounds of squid and you put them on the deck of the boat when it’s 90 degrees.” Stinky.  

But even if a fish is in peak season, says Taylor, “it doesn’t mean it’s going to be good.” Other variables can include what a fish has been eating, whether it’s spawning or stressed, if it was attacked by another fish in the ocean, and so forth. At Wulf’s, he says, sometimes the buyers refuse fish from the same haul if they don’t like the texture or color. Especially with bigger fish, like tuna, halibut, and swordfish, says Taylor, “the difference can be night and day. You have to go fish by fish.”  

 

Meet Richie Taylor

Many in the Boston area know Richie from the old Wulf’s Fish market in Brookline, where he advised home cooks and chefs for decades on what fish was best, and what they should do with it

Wulfpack - Wulfs Fish - Richie Taylor from Wulf's Fish on Vimeo.

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