Warmer weather seems to have finally arrived in Maine – and spring seems more “official” now that our snows are mostly gone (there’s even talk of fiddleheads soon!) And when it comes to seafood, spring (along with the winter catch season) ushers in a greater influx of wild fishery openings than the summer and fall months combined. With the end of winter comes the closing of the inshore scallop fisheries, both Bay Scallops off Nantucket and our own “Diver” Sea Scallops in Maine, along with closure of the Maine Shrimp season – none will be seen fresh on the market again until after Thanksgiving.
But other seafood species are now coming into season to lend balance to the loss of these special winter items:
May 1st is an important date for a special Maine fishery: Maine Halibut season opens up. We covet these fish due to the very short season here in Maine (it ends July 31st) – and because we believe they are simply the best halibut in the United States. Because of our proximity to local landings, these fish typically arrive to our customers less than 24 hours after being caught. Catch trauma to these fish are greatly reduced due to the gear used – line caught using circle hooks that catch the mouth instead of being swallowed and entering the gut – they are absolutely pristine and ocean fresh.
With the bothersome Maine ice out of the way, many Maine Oyster harvesters revamp their operations and begin harvesting again after the break up of the deep winter freeze up along the rivers. This Spring we have introduced a new oyster, our exclusive “Browne’s Point” – and already the demand is high. Other farms along the Maine coast are also up, look already for Winterpoints, Dodge Coves and Bagaduce to be available – with Pemaquids and Glidden Points coming along soon. We believe our regional Maine oysters are the best in New England (and the country!) – clean, crisp, with nice cups full of briny liquor – and are always in high demand among our customers.
One of the best seasonal delicacies of the North Atlantic, Soft-shell Blue Crabs from the Mid-Atlantic will come into season shortly as well – many Chesapeake crabbers look to the first full moon of May as a sign their molting process is underway. Chesapeake Soft-shells are generally considered best in May to July. We are looking forward to bringing them in shortly and hope to have them before Mother’s Day (May 12). After they shed, their new shells are as thin as paper – and perfect for a traditional fried soft-shell crab sandwich.
On the other side of the ocean, the commercial wild salmon season is also opening in California, Oregon & Washington States– we look for Kings (Chinook), Cohos and Sockeyes – along with the coveted Alaskan Copper River King Salmon run (mid-May). For those looking for an immediate or alternate source (and year round supply), we have also been offering the excellent Ora King salmon – farm-raised in New Zealand.
In some more concerning news, May 1st also sees unprecedented closures for the codfish fishery in the Gulf of Maine. The New England Fishery Management Council passed a 77 percent reduction in the catch limit for Gulf of Maine cod – and a further 55 percent cut to allowable catch off of the Georges Banks. The closure of various fishing areas (“Sectors”) will also likely affect the total catch of other groundfish species such as Haddock and Hake. Whether these closures will be “catastrophic” to our Maine fishing fleet – and availability of these species on our New England fish auctions – remains cloudy. But at worst, it is probable that the prices for New England groundfish will rise noticeably in the coming months ahead.
Finally, June 1st will see the opening for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna in the Gulf of Maine. Rod Browne Mitchell’s vessel, the Hazel Browne, is gearing up to pursue these tuna both commercially – and recreationally through charters. The ultimate sushi seafood item, we are hoping to have a strong catch this season.
And of course, we’ll keep an eye out for some fiddleheads too.
~ Nick Branchina, Director of Marketing