Seafood like most things we eat has seasons of abundance and scarcity. Most things in life in temperate climates grow in abundance over the course of the summer and use an abundance of stored energy to survive over the winter. Spring typically is not a great fishing season in New England. The fish are often “thin”. Fish that migrate long distances such a Striped Bass often arrive with an elongated starving look. Also, many groundfish spawn in the spring. Those of you with whole fish shares have seen the glands and eggs in the flounders.
The weather in spring is also pretty miserable on the water, which means that many fishermen haul their boats for repairs and painting in the spring. And finally, fishing regulations discourage fishing in the typical “day boat” locations closer to shore. The fishing calender, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, begins on May 1. Under the new sector system, fishermen have to face the question of how and when to fish their quota. If they fish all of their quota, they are done for the year. So, many fishermen, knowing they will get a new allocation of quota in May have fished out their quota.
All of these factors mean that it can be hard to find fish in the spring as fewer boats go out and there are fewer fish to catch according to the seasons and the government. In a way, its a natural time in the eco-system for everyone to rest, recuperate, take care of business (spawning for fish, fixing vessels for fishermen) before the abundance of summer arrives.
Part of being part of a program like CAFC is to understand the fishermen and the seasonality of seafood. No one would expect a local farmer to have fresh corn in April. A few folks have asked CAFC when “non white fish” will be available. Mackeral and herring start to show up in our waters soon. Usually just behind the right whales. And the herring and the mackeral are the favorite prey of just about everything in the ocean humans like to eat.
One old salt told me once to look for the apple trees to bloom. “You wont catch a striper out there until the day the apple trees bloom.” In my experience chasing fish around, I’ve found that to be some sage advice. As I write this, the forsythia are blooming, which means the fish are on their way, as are the new quota allocations and the warmer weather and greater diversity of seafood in our local corner of the planet’s ocean.
Happy Earth Day!