Our Maggie Award Winning Feature!
Grill it, smoke it, eat it raw — fish is one of the great delicacies, and preparing and eating fresh-caught wild fish is a whole new order of seafood dining. If you enjoy the outdoors, the water, and the connection of nature to your plate, here are some great ways to harvest one of the healthiest entrees around.
Angling for Salmon
The two main questions most people heading out to fish for the first time ask: when and where? The Department of Fish and Wildlife takes samples of salmon from Squalicum Marina in Whatcom County and Washington Park launch ramp in Skagit. From these samples, the DFW issues a report that indicates how many salmon are running at any given time. This information is most useful for predicting the best time to catch salmon if viewed over a two or three –year trend (and all those records are available), rather than up-to-the-minute reporting. Some of the reports are more than a week old, which means you may miss the peak if you’re getting old information. The sampling areas aren’t the recommended areas for angling. The DFW offers maps, up-to-date information about regulations, areas that may be closed to fishing, and licensing. The DFW also has maps and information about areas that may be closed for management purposes or for the season.
Chartering a Boat
Searching for the right spot to fish on the right day in the right weather can be a challenge. An experienced captain with a good boat can take you to favorite spots, and he will know the best times to go. Whether you are learning how to fish, determining your level of commitment to the sea, or an expert without a boat, grab some friends and spend an afternoon or a weekend reeling in the sea’s bounty. Four charters — R&R Charters, Highliner Charters, Jolly Mon, and Catchmore Charters — run out of Anacortes.
Our nearshore waters are often closed for shellfish harvesting in the summer, but not always. There will be big signs warning you if the beaches are closed. You’ll see the buoys for crab pots scattered around Fairhaven in Bellingham, down south in Skagit, and up in Semiahmoo and Birch Bay. Birch Bay State Park’s clam band is a great place to dig. From the gravel to the low dirt line, you can harvest littleneck and Manila clams. In the sandy upper intertidal, you can find butter clams, cockles, and horse clams. Oysters can be harvested on the north end of the beach as well. Patos Island has clam-digging and oyster harvesting year-round.
If getting out on the water and tossing around lines and nets is too much like work for you, crab might be more your speed. No, not the scary crabbing of Deadliest Catch; we’re talking about an afternoon of baiting traps, setting pots, and waiting. Go out at high tide, cut your motor, bait the trap (turkey leg seems to be de riguer for crabbers) and drop the pot. Have a beer, go for a swim, read a few chapters of a good book, and your dinner comes to you. Just be aware that crab can strip that bait (typically a turkey leg) very quickly, so don’t leave it out too long. Bear in mind that you have to measure your crab and not overfish, which is true about almost every form of fishing.
Perhaps you’re less of a harvest-your-own type, but you like to keep a short distance between your food and your dinner plate. Perhaps you want the freshest, highest quality seafood from a reliable local source. Maybe you just like shopping from a pre-selected display with lots of variety or you like giving amazing gifts like whole salmon to lucky friends and family. These shops and purveyors will fill your plate, gift basket, or shopping cart with plenty of delicious options.
Taylor Shellfish Farm
The largest producer of farmed shellfish in the U.S., the Taylors have built their business to nearly 500 employees and 11,000 acres of tidelands. They offer clams, geoduck, mussels, and several varieties of oysters. Their farm store is beautifully situated along Chuckanut Drive, and they welcome visitors. For generations this family has provided our area (and now the world) with fresh shellfish.
2182 Chuckanut Dr., Bellingham | taylorsamish.com
Black Rock Seafood in Anacortes
Fish and Anacortes are practically synonymous, as Anacortes is the gateway to the San Juans. With fishing boats galore, it’s great that there’s a place to buy some of that bounty. Black Rock gets high marks for its crab, but don’t overlook their other offerings. Even prepared fish like the pickled herring are highly prized by locals.
8991 Stevenson Rd., Anacortes
Blau Oyster Company on Samish Bay
Specializing in the hardy and tender Pacific Oyster, Blau Oyster grows all their stock from seed and harvests onsite. Blau also offers crab, clams, and mussels in addition to oysters. When oysters reach maturity, Blau processes them for distributors, stores, and restaurants, keeping some of their stock live for raw consumption and barbecuing. By the pint or pound, half-dozen or full, the oysters at Blau are delicious and carefully harvested.
11321 Blue Heron Rd., Bow | blauoyster.com
Bornstein Seafoods in Bellingham
Myer Bornstein started this little seafood company in Bellingham in 1934, and through the stewardship of his descendants, it is still going strong. Though most of their products are for wholesale distribution, they have a robust online presence featuring premium canned albacore and salmon. Bornstein Seafoods works closely with the Marine Stewardship Council to ensure their sources are sustainable.
1001 Hilton Ave., Bellingham | bornstein.com
Skagit’s Own Fish Market
Owned and operated by Tana and Eric Skaugrud, the Skagit Fish Market is a great place to explore new kinds of fish or pick up favorite standbys. Clean, comfortable, and well-stocked, the shopping experience at the market is unparalleled. They specialize in crab, but offer all kinds of fish. They can identify the finest products and offer lots of advice on preparation. A great place to dive into seafood if you’re at all hesitant.
18042 WA 20, Burlington | skagitfish.com
An area with this much available seafood can’t help but have great seafood restaurants. From individual dishes to whole restaurants with a seafood emphasis, we’ll guide you through the maze of inferior and farmed fish to
get you to the best places for fresh and wild seafood.
The Oyster Bar
Set along the dizzying cliffs of Chuckanut Bay, The Oyster Bar is an unassuming wooden building that would be easy to overlook. But what lies inside is not only a beautiful restaurant with a cleverly tiered interior, but expansive views of Chuckanut Bay. The dishes are fresh and beautifully prepared, and the oysters are absolutely divine.
2578 Chuckanut Dr., Bellingham | theoysterbar.net
Rock-n-Rye Oyster House
The newcomer in the seafood scene here in Bellingham, Rock-n-Rye specializes in oysters. They have a full menu, but oysters are their focus. The oyster stew, oyster tacos, and raw shooters are all very well prepared and delicious. The exposed brick and dark varnished wood add to the cozy oyster house ambiance.
1145 N. State St., Bellingham | rockrye.com
Packers Oyster Bar and Pierside Kitchen
With Drayton Harbor Oyster Farm just over the railing, you really can’t go wrong with the oysters at Packers and the fish dishes next door at Pierside. Fresh halibut, salmon, ahi, and more are served delicately seared to perfection with sauces that complement but don’t overwhelm. With all of that sparkling water surrounding Semiahmoo, it’s a perfect place for an ocean-inspired dinner.
9565 Semiahmoo Pkwy., Blaine | semiahmoo.com
Secret Cove in Anacortes
With a brand-new patio overlooking the water, this seaside retreat is pure pleasure. They offer fresh shellfish (oyster, crab, mussels) in an elegant, yet casual dining room. They are perfectly located on the water for the absolute utmost in freshness.
209 T Ave., Anacortes | secretcoveanacortes.com
Coho Restaurant in Friday Harbor
Though seafood isn’t their only menu offering, it certainly is the focus of this Northwest gem. Located in a Craftsman bungalow a few blocks from the ferry terminal, Coho is a cozy, welcoming spot. Mussels, octopus, trout, halibut, and more grace their menu, all prepared with a Mediterranean influence. The owners are committed to offering locally sourced ingredients, and the art on the walls is all local as well. Westcott Bay Seafood supplies Coho with fresh fish, ensuring Coho’s commitment to fresh, local, and sustainable seafood.
120 Nichols St., Friday Harbor | cohorestaurant.com
Click Here to see the editorial layout that won the 2016 National Maggie Award!