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What’s better than a steaming bowl of clam chowder, a fresh-steamed Dungeness crab or a plank of wild chinook salmon? For seafood lovers, Oregon’s coastal bounty is hard to beat. But no matter where you live in Oregon — even hundreds of miles from the Coast — you can enjoy Oregon’s freshest seafood all year round, from wild salmon and albacore to Oregon Pink Shrimp, oysters and rockfish. A new Eat Oregon Seafood campaign makes it easy to find everything you need to know about what’s in season, where to buy it and how to prepare it for maximum deliciousness — plus recipes for inspiration.
Here’s how to support Oregon’s independent, family fishers who are working to make sure local fisheries are sustainable for generations to come.
What’s in Season
You can generally get fresh albacore tuna right from the boat between June and October, depending on conditions. Dungeness crab typically comes in fresh between December and August, but is easy to find frozen year-round. Here’s how to crack your own crab, or you can always just buy the crab meat fresh.
Fresh Pacific halibut is strictly summertime fare, arriving between June and August. (Hello, fish and chips.) Pacific rockfish is nearly year round, with boatloads coming in all winter long. Those yummy cold-water pink shrimp — already cooked and peeled, ready to toss in a sandwich or salad — are available April through October. Watch a video on how shrimp are caught and processed by a fisherman in Charleston. Lingcod, sole and black cod are fresh year-round — perfect for the grill or any recipe that calls for white fish (fish-taco time!).
Oyster fans know that they’re best enjoyed in the cooler months, between September and April. Oregon is famous for two kinds of oysters, harvested from Tillamook, Netarts, Yaquina and Coos bays. The Olympia, or Oly, is small, round and native to the West Coast, while the Pacific is larger, with a purple-white shell. Both are delicious baked, grilled, breaded and fried or raw on the half shell, and best savored with a glass of Oregon chardonnay or pinot gris. Don’t forget to pack these on ice if you buy them at the source.
Oregon’s most popular fish, the salmon, is highly seasonal. Find fresh coho between July and September and chinook between April and October. Here’s how one Oregon fisherman harvests wild salmon. The best way to stay posted on when it’s super fresh is to connect with a local fish market (see below).
Where to Buy
There are three basic ways to buy Oregon seafood. You can order from the comfort of your own home, either online or by phone. Find the best delivery resource for you, and schedule your seafood to be delivered to your door or to a regional pickup site. You can visit your local grocery store, farmers market or local fish purveyor — use the searchable directory to find the closest near you, among dozens throughout the state. Or you can buy your seafood right at the source, either directly from tribal fishers or straight from many of the docks during the summer months. (This Oregon Sea Grant video explains how to buy tuna off the docks.) Soon you’ll find fresh fish sold in towns along the Columbia River as tribal commercial fishing will take place August 24 – September 3, 2020.
Don’t be afraid to ask where and when the fish was caught, or look for labels with that information indicated. For instance, the Native-owned, wild-caught salmon by Two Rivers Fish Co. on the Columbia River, available at Zupan’s and other retailers, includes label information that traces each fish back to the tribal fisher who caught it. Here’s how to shop for high-quality fish at your local market.
How to Prepare
Oregon seafood doesn’t have to be just-caught to be enjoyed. You can buy it frozen, smoked or canned, or buy it fresh and freeze it, smoke it or can it yourself. If you do have it fresh, make sure to eat it within a couple of days. You can get fancy or keep it very simple. One of the easiest ways to use up bits of fresh seafood is in a hearty chowder — creative chefs can riff off the flavors of their favorite Oregon Coast chowder spots. Or pro cooks can kick it up a notch with one of these restaurant-ready recipes for inspiration: fresh albacore tuna salad from chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana and cedar-planked salmon by chef Gabe Rucker of Le Pigeon, both James Beard Award-winning chefs in Portland.