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Maine: Native Fish?

This might sound silly but here goes anyway. We'll be on the coast for about a week and while we know that when in Maine, lobster is the thing the question arises: what other fish are native and seasonal. For instance, checking a few menues, I don't notice shrimp as very common. Since most shrimp in my supermkt comes from Southeast Asia, I'm thinking Maine's waters are too cold. Am I right? And also is crab a native crustacean? What varieties? Ditto fin fish. I'd hate to drive all the way from L.I. and eat frozen fish from South America. So, thanks in advance, I hoping I'm not wasting people's time.

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  1. Crab is native. I don't know if there is a name for it, but just keep in mind it is not as good as Maryland crab, being stringier. Scallops are local, and as far as I know there are local shrimp. Clams, mussels, oysters, halibut, haddock.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rrems

      Maine shrimp are wonderful, albeit much smaller than the gulf variety as the water is much colder. Unfortunately, the season ends at the end of April so you won't find any fresh shrimp this time of year. Bay scallops are non-native to Maine, but sea scallops can be local. Haddock, salmon, and tuna are all native to Maine. Local crab is called rock crab, and although it is very different from what one finds in Maryland, it is quite tasty and meaty crab with a delicate and sweet flavor. Oysters, mussels, and soft shelled (steamers) plus little neck and cherrystone clams are also local to the area.

      1. re: rrems

        I spent some time in Baltimore and crab there is much different than the handpicked, small stuff you will get in maine but it is much sweeter and makes a better crab cake or works better in dips, in mixes much better....

      2. Lobster is definitely a summertime food in Maine.

        Unfortunately, the shrimp season is fairly short, the best time for fresh is from Dec. to Feb. Many chefs I've worked with have said that the "small" Maine shrimp do not have the flavor of Tiger Shrimp, or other varieties. I think the reason is that Maine shrimp is usually overcooked, due to its small size. Just barely cooked or even raw, the flavor is very sweet. Of course fresh is the best, but shrimp is also pretty good when flash frozen. Just make sure you use it the same day it thaws, otherwise it will be mushy and lose its sweetness.

        Native crab season is much larger, usually from April to December. There are many names for Maine Crab, the most popular is Picket-Toe or "Peekie-Toe" as us natives call it. I think the shedding season is around June-July, where really fresh crabmeat is a little tougher to come by since it spoils quicker. Personally, I've had crabs many different ways...King Crab, Maryland Crab, Dungeness Crab...the sweetest Crab is definitely Maine Crab.

        Mussels! Very good mussels in Maine. You can find them both wild and farmed. Honestly I've never been able to tell the difference, aside from the large barnacles and dirty shells on the wild mussels.

        Oysters can be good, but are usually very dirty! If you get them fresh make sure to scrub the hell out of them. Pemaquid and North Haven oysters stand out for me, although I've only had them raw.

        Scallops are great, if they are local. I think the season is around early spring to early summer for nice big diver scallops. I could be wrong. Most of the scallops you see other times of the year come from ME/NH/MA.

        I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of Fish. Let me just rattle off a few that we see fresh regularly:
        Halibut
        Haddock
        Monkfish
        some tuna and salmon (although wild salmon is scarce and almost endangered in fresh water)

        Enjoy your stay in Maine!

        6 Replies
        1. re: zeph74

          Very thorough. Well done. Peekie-toe, however, is not a native term but a relatively recent PR one to increase sales it will label you as "from away" immediately. Local tuna or monkfish is tough to find unless in Portland. Mackerel is local as is striped bass. Sea scallops are being dragged for now off shore. Pronounce scallop as "scawllop"" here not "scaaallop", if you don't want to get stared at, and enjoy them while you're here.
          Yesterday, while returning a group from a kayak tour, I noticed at least 100 very large crabs dead and smelling ripe on either side of the boat loading ramp. I assume a lobsterman dumped them there because he was tired of them filling his trap instead of lobster. A sad waste of good food though.
          Don't forget fried clams and lostber, crab, shrimp and clam rolls for quick road side snacks.

          1. re: Passadumkeg

            Growing up in MA, but summer in ME, seafood was alway abundant.

            We used to dig for clams, and fish for flounder! Many years ago, lol.

            But, the clams are still around and great to eat. Flounder, aka as Dover Sole might still be on menus. It's a great, mild, white fish. Fish and chips is either Haddock or Cod aka know as schrod.

            Good luck, have fun and eat lots of seafood in ME!

            1. re: Passadumkeg

              I hadn't bothered responding Pass because I knew you'd weigh-in with that enlightening & inimitable style that wears so well.

              Harp00n

              1. re: Harp00n

                Wicked good, Cappy!
                I've got a day off. Going Brookie hunting today.

              2. re: Passadumkeg

                Thursday morning all of Rockland harbor had a horrible fishy stench floating around. Was gone by the afternoon, was probably the crabs you were talking about.

              3. re: zeph74

                The Gulf of Maine shrimp season is quite a bit longer now than it was prior to 2006. Originally, it was a 6 month December to May season. They chopped it back to 25 days back in 2001 to let stocks replenish. It crept up to two months in 2005. I think it's now 140 days from mid-December through the end of April. My local fish market was closed for rennovation from January through May (and reopened with much higher prices) so I didn't get to track the length of the season this year.

                I bought 5 pounds of frozen peeled Gulf of Maine shrimp last Friday. It's much better fresh off the boat but it's still really good frozen. The key is to barely cook it. I used it in a boulliabasse where I basically dump it in, turn off the flame, and serve. I also use it in shrimp gumbo & etouffee with a similar cooking style. It makes a killer ceviche. I use lime juice, salt, mint, and cilantro. The sushi bars in Portland serve it during the winter.

                Scallops in any restaurant almost always come from New Bedford.

                The Portland auction is mostly goundfish. Things from the cod family like cod, haddock, and cusk. Sole. Junk fish like pollack. Pretty much any bluefin tuna caught gets an airplane ride to Japan.

              4. don't forget Stripers and BlueFish. great summer local fishes.

                26 Replies
                1. re: ScubaSteve

                  I mentioned strippers, but blues don't seem to run this far north. Never seen or caught one.

                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    really? i was in BoothBay last month and had what was listed as a grilled, local caught bluefish. i guess 'local' is a flexible term.

                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                      Blue fish tournament in Bath, blue fish caught off the shore for years, blue fish is a very local fish....

                      1. re: ScubaSteve

                        You're home in Ma. is closer to Booth Bay/Bath than I am. No blues fishing north of Pennobscot Bay. I guess that's why the Southern Maine area is known as Little Boston. I guess that Maine is too big a state to generalize. I caught a very large halibut near Matinicus Rock 20 years ago, are they still there?

                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                          had a friend actually catch a halibut last summer, first I had seen in our area in years.....

                      2. re: Passadumkeg

                        I think you can find native strippers at the Time-Out Pub in Rockland. Ok, just messing with your typo.

                        1. re: Shooley

                          Just went to the blues festival and the time out pub last weekend. Lots of strippers!

                      3. re: ScubaSteve

                        Casco Bay now reliably gets Stripers every year. There's even a small breeding population present year round in the Kennebec River. Blues can be hit or miss proposition. More often than not they're present but sometimes can be scarce.

                        1. re: Harp00n

                          Lobstermen hate strippers w/ a passion. They wish they'd go back to New Jersey. I wonder if the strippers & blues are filling a niche left by the decimated cod stocks?

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            What do lobstermen have against strippers? Do they not want to pay the covercharge at the club or is it the overpriced drinks?

                              1. re: Harp00n

                                Yeh, we're tough up here, I like my strippers sashami style, raw!

                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              Those strippers are decimating the cod areas! You can hardly find a decent sized one any more. Just big, well-fed strippers. They fill a niche; they are very firm fleshed. They are very lively. They will really keep your pole dancing!
                              Back in Texas, a big, fresh water stripper was a great find; but to find a big one was expensive business. You needed a guides; still, sometimes you came up empty handed and empty walleted. Once, I spent everything I had trying to land one of those beauties. I even bought special treble entendre lures that really set me back a pretty penny.

                            2. re: Harp00n

                              Stripers and Blues usually do not coexist. For awhile, we had stripers, then blues, now more stripers again (this is over the 50 years I've fished the mouth of the kennebec). I'd say more stripers than blues currently but we do catch both lately.....

                              1. re: jspear

                                Strippers are a relative new sport fish up here. That's why I wondered about cod depletion.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  Passadumkeg,

                                  You seem to be really familiar with the Bar Harbor area and since no one has responded to my other post about Acadian homemade chowder, I'll ask you directly. Can fresh homemade chowder, straight from the kitchen stove, be had from local fishermen's wives ( or from local fisherwomen's significant others) ? Thanks

                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                    actually, I think it has something to do with ocean temp, could be linked to cod......

                                  2. re: jspear

                                    Hi jspear,

                                    Blues are far less tolerant of cooler waters than Stripers but I have caught both in the same day on numerous occasions in Harpswell and elsewhere. But you're right, more often you see one or the other and although I have fished both the Kennebec and it's estuary I'm sure you've logged a lot more time there than myself. One of the best opportunities I've found to catch large stripers, when both are present, is when the Blues have encircled and commence to massacre the Pogies, that's Menhaden to you N.J. flat-landers. The big boys sit near the bottom and inhale the half-eaten Pogies left in the wake of the Blues blood-lust. And yes, lol, I can match your fishin' yarns, braggadocio, and exaggeration with 50ty years of flailing away with a rod as well. I see your home base is Troy, N.Y. Perhaps we'll meet sometime in the Man of Kent in Hoosick, my home away from home.

                                    Tight lines & cheers,
                                    Harp

                                    1. re: Harp00n

                                      I was a kid in Long Branch, NJ and we slaughtered both pogies and blues. Twenty years ago we filled a Jock Williams 36' lobster boat up to the gunwales w/ gill netted menhaden (but no blues) on North Haven. Made one poop load of lobster bait. The Russkies vacuumed them and everything else up in the 80's and Dominoes delivered pizza out to the ship moored outside Rockland Harbor. Ah, capitalism, ya gotta love it.

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                        I'd eat Pogies sushi-style long before you'd get Dominoes pass my lips. Regardless of how much Screech or Sailor Jerry's I'd imbibed.

                                        1. re: Harp00n

                                          Never ate Dominoes, only played 'em.
                                          Remember, 2 links in a chain weakens the chain restaurant.

                                      2. re: Harp00n

                                        Sad to report but one of those places on 7 is closed, last I drove by. I think it was Man of Kent, but it might have been the other. I have also had great success within a blue feeding frenzy, both at Popham and on Nantucket. We used to catch some huge stripers, my best family story is the 21 pounder that my dad caught on 8 lb test on a mackerel jig. Ran it up and down the beach for about 30 minutes before he got it in. Unfortunately of us as a family, there are photos :) Either way, we seemed to catch fewer stripers until about 3 years ago then they started running in spurts, almost like the blues. My NJ friend got one of each last August but neither was a keeper. Although you may have the years to match, I doubt you could match the braggin', a family trait practiced with the best......

                                        1. re: jspear

                                          Nay, nay, my friend. As I'd said; MOK is my home away from home. It's still going strong after all these years and is a destination roadhouse. I was there just this passed weekend enjoying a few perfectly mixed Pegu Clubs. You're thinking of The Old Dane's or whatever it's last incarnation was called. Btw, I just returned from Harpswell where my cousin caught a 37" Striper just before noon yesterday on the incoming tide at Stovers Point.

                                          Harp

                                          1. re: Harp00n

                                            What did I tell you about bragging???:)

                                            1. re: jspear

                                              Hey, I'm not braggin', it's my cousin's.
                                              I'm just saying... :-0)

                                2. Any striped bass you see on a menu in Maine is probably a farmed fish. Maine does not allow commercial use of striped bass. I guess it might be possible for a restaurant to buy bass in MA and bring it up here but I kinda doubt that is legal.

                                  That said, it is a delicious fish and if you can wet a line they are relatively easy to catch.

                                  Some Halibut is local but it also arrives from the Pacific Ocean.

                                  Any Salmon you see from Maine is also a farmed fish. I personally would not suggest it.

                                  Maine crab is delicious as others have stated. There are many ways to enjoy fresh crab and lobster so get inventive! Salads, sandwiches, soups, etc.

                                  Haddock is a staple and always locally caught. You can also find locally caught cod, cusk, Hake, monktails, pollack, bluefish and mackeral. Depending on time of year you might find local tuna.

                                  Enjoy the trip!

                                  1. I am LMAO at remembering the smell of rotting pogies that would swarm into streams and then die of asphyxiation...
                                    I also remember the Russians buying from local fishermen off Machiasport; back in the days when they would hover off around Cutler for a little surveillance as well.
                                    Aren't 'pinkie' crabs the same as Jonah crabs? I have to confess, I prefer blue crabs steamed with Old Bay

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mollydingle

                                      Oh the smell of route one from brunswick to bath and the stench of pogies, right off the New Meadows Inn......

                                    2. Many restaurants have a selection called fish of the day, which is usually locally caught. Also, you should ask when ordering fish if (1) it is fresh, not frozen (2) is it caught locally and (3) if not, where is it from. Most places will answer these questions honestly and you will know whether or not you are getting what you want.