The Ides are here and soon the waters of the Chicago River will turn green with festivities and the streets will be paved with little verdant apparitions of overindulgence. No matter what the calendar says, you can hear whispers of spring in the city and we are all feeling a little lucky. Here’s what’s happening beneath the surface.
In the Striped Bass market, bigger fish – 20 pounds and higher – are beginning to show in Virginia. There was a bit of a glut to start the races, but some high winds have scattered fisherman since and prices have stabilized. Expect some good landings until April and be sure to pay attention as fish will disappear shortly after. The seasonal shift will cause fish to be scarce for a few weeks in the early spring.
Lobster prices are to remain on a steady rise until more boats can get out. Look for the next few weeks to be a grind to find steady footing, especially since the weather forecast out East is more snow and a lot more wind.
The Grouper market continues to remain strong due to an inshore seasonal closure in Mexico. The closure has put pressure on domestic product and although fish are available in the interim, there could be supply issues throughout the next couple of months.
The spring Dover Sole market that goes through mid-April could see price increases for U.S. users due to the weak dollar. Most of the fish caught at this time go into the frozen sector, so down the line you could see price increases of 15% or more when suppliers must replenish product.
Shad is beginning to show up in Georgia and South Carolina, and that means roe sacks will be available. This fishery is tricky because it is a passive fishery. Fishermen have to wait for the shad to show up, instead of activingly hunting them. As fish move, be prepared to grab them when they appear.
The waters are beginning to warm and for many species that means time to spawn. You will be able to easily recognize when species begin to spawn by the indicators in their flesh. During the spawning season, fish and shellfish will exert most of their energy toward reproduction. Much of what they eat will be diverted there, instead of into making muscle tissue. The chemical composition of the muscle also changes, with fluids replacing proteins, weakening the flesh. This will cause the muscle to break down faster, the result being meats that are more likely to separate once taken off the bone. Be sure to keep these factors in mind when ordering and receiving seafood.