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Most common fish caught and eaten in Boston?

  • m

I have a question, for a person soon to be visiting Boston. What are the four most common types of fish caught and eaten in the Boston area, how are they usually cooked and eaten and where are the best places? Also I'm talking white fish but you can include shellfish that would provide the typical Boston experience. Thanks.

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  1. This is sort of a funny question.

    This article might be interesting to you: http://www.wbur.org/2010/07/22/sport-...

    It talks about fishing for striped bass, flounder and blue-fin tuna in/around Boston harbor.

    In terms of what people eat here, do you mean locals or tourists? I would imagine that clams and lobster are pretty high up there in terms of tourist consumption....

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dave MP

      more interested in locals than tourists

      1. re: Mudd

        In terms of sheer volume, it has to be cod/haddock. The catch limits are insanely high...you can hit a bit school of them and just pull them up until your arms get tired.
        Down south a bit in RI, there's porgy which is also in the insanely high catch limit (like fill two 5 gallon buckets in 3hrs of just hauling them up crazy).

        In the summer, it's striper/bluefish in terms of volume (#caught and ease of catching), but nowhere near as many as cod. Tuna is harder (you can come back empty handed from a fishing trip on a charter).

        In most restaurants, you'll see a breaded/baked cod/haddock dish as a result. For a good chunk of the summer, you'll see striper/bluefish on menus as well as tuna but the tuna isn't necessarily from here.

        Oysters/clams are also plentiful except during winter, and lobster is generally from Maine though you also have them from here.

    2. Judging from what I have gotten in fish CSA shares, the number 1 fish is cod. (What do you say, fellow CAFC people? giggle) However, I think it is important to point out that there is a difference between what is caught and what is most easily available. Restaurants and supermarkets feature and sell what they expect their customers most want to buy. If you go out for a meal or to purchase some fish, a lot of what you see will not be local.

      So, I am wondering if perhaps you are really looking for some suggestions for restaurants that feature local fish. Is that true? If so, we can probably help you with suggestions for restaurants and dishes to try there.

      26 Replies
      1. re: PinchOfSalt

        Hrrm, hrrrm....

        The history of New England and the codfish are inseparable. At least until as years of chronic overfishing have decimated the stocks, the tonnage of cod outpaced all else probably 10 fold.

        If you are talking rod and pole recreationally caught fish then Bluefish and Striped Bass for sure, with probably more striper North of the Cape and about 50/50 on south.

        That said, commercially, historically the coast of MA has also always (recent overfishing has changed things) been very productive for:
        - Bluefin Tuna
        - Yellowfin Tuna
        - Some bonito
        - Some Big Eye Tuna (help me here 9Lives)
        - Swordfish (perfect storm anyone)
        - Haddock
        - Hake
        - Pollack
        - Flounder
        - Sole
        - Fluke
        - Mackeral (some of the finest sushi mackeral in the world)
        - Monkfish
        - Mako
        - An occasional Marlin or Mahi Mahi if the Gulfstream is blowing the right way in summer
        - Sea Robbins
        - Tautog
        - Halibut (though now very few left)
        I'm sure I'm forgetting at least 10...


        1. re: StriperGuy

          SG, agreed and from what I have read and experienced, lots of haddock, but no cod. It is going the way of the passenger pidgeon. I think I might be correct that many restaurants that feature cod, serve Pacific cod.
          So it goes.

          1. re: Passadumkeg

            There is still local cod, but MUCH reduced from years passed when you could literally fill a boat, of any size, with cod, with minimal effort.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              Is the cod sold commercially? In Maine it is very hard to find, unless one knows a fisherman. Do Boston restaurants serve Gulf of Maine cod or do you think it is Pacific cod?

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                Not sure. As with all questions pescatarian, I'll ask next time I'm at New Deal.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  I met a guy recently who catches a lot of cod near thw Cape and seems to make a decent living. Hwe also has live wells and some of what he sells ends up in live tanks in Chinatown.

                  He sells to a handful of wholesaler on the SS.

                  1. re: 9lives

                    WAY cool. Always wondered what the deal was with those live cod. Did not think anyone was farm raising cod. Learn something new every day.

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      nit farnraise..line caught...interesting guy, Ill write you offflist

                    2. re: 9lives

                      very good!
                      I used to catch a lot of the cod family w/ a gill net while living on an island on the west coast of Norway.
                      Anyone concerned about the worms in Atlantic cod? I just pluck or cook 'em.

            2. re: StriperGuy

              Dogfish is certainly common in commercial fishery, although often not desired. Scup and butterfish are probably more common than some others on your list. Dabs and smelts (unfortunately local smelts tend not to be commercially available, but people fish them) to the north. Also "pollock" above has a minor mispelling (pollack is a person's name). Its also useful to keep in mind that particularly when talking about rood and reel catch, local names (snappers for small bluefish) are much more common than in your fish market. :-)

              1. re: itaunas

                Plollock, haddock and hake are all in the cod family.

                1. re: itaunas

                  most if not all dogfish is sold to Europe at very low prices virtually no domestice demand

                    1. re: 9lives

                      One fish I really enjoy for a moqueca in Brazil which is realtively inexpensive is cacão which is a generic name for several types of small sharks just like dogfish although not certain there is 100% overlap (and probably means different things between PT/BR). All of them need to be properly killed and cleaned, but everyone always tells you to avoid "cacão mijão" (again probably improperly killed/cleaned/stored, but a small shark with a strong ammonia smell -- mijão you can google for a translation). I haven't encountered a mijão to compare, but have seen what we'd call black dogfish and so on. I don't think there is much of a domestic or export market for them, just for less expensive moquecas (house moqueca at a fisherman's bar, local per-lb buffet).

                      1. re: itaunas

                        Mako and some sharks can be tasty for sure.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          Saw an 18' mako caught between North Haven & Vinalhaven. My kids were swinging off the spinaker lines, not far away, into the water. Make was featured at the Coal Wharf Restaurant that night!

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            Small critters hanging off a boat, by a line, in the middle of the Atlantic... there's a term for that.

                            We call that "trolling."

                            The critters are called "bait."

                            1. re: StriperGuy

                              Can the spinaker lines be "long lining"? I work as a sea kayak guide in Pennobscot Bay, summers. Not to uncommon to see sharks near seal basking ledges. I troll as I paddle on 3 day trips. The tourists love it when I haul in a haddock, whack it on the side of the boat, throw it in the cockpit and when we arrive at our destination, I cook 'em over a fire, pick a few mussels, dig a mess of clams; "The way life should be".
                              Be back in Maine June 1; not missing the ice and snow.

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                WAY cool.

                                If you are a yakker you ought to try "tube and worm" trolling for stripers here in MA.

                                Long surgical tube lure thingy with a sea worm on the hook trolled of the back of a kayak.

                                If you hook up with a BIG striper you get a special treat called a "Nantucket Sleigh Ride." A big striper will literally drag the whole yak around for a 1/2 hour or so until you can tire it out and land it.

                                Gotta say an 18' mako would scare the heck out of me...

                      2. re: 9lives

                        Unless you head to 5 Corners Kitchen in Marblehead.

                        1. re: phatchris

                          I've heard great things about 5 Corners from friends. I had a res some time back but they had that unfortunate fire.

                          My dogfish comment came from a fisherman at the MHD dock who had a few cratefuls.

                          This is almost a 3 yo thread so a lot has changed.



                          1. re: 9lives

                            The Dogfish is actually quite good at 5 Corners, served in an asian style coconut broth. Everything I've had thus far has been good/great, it's made the transition to the burbs a bit easier.

                            1. re: phatchris

                              Thx, Good info.

                              I'll make sure I get there next Spring.

                  1. re: PinchOfSalt

                    Actually, we haven't had cod at all for our share that began in November. We have had haddock, whiting, red fish, and monkfish. Am I not getting your joke?

                    1. re: Spenbald

                      If you had been in CAFC for the first few seasons, I think you would be giggling with me. They got a lot of feedback and clearly have worked to deliver variety to members.

                      1. re: Spenbald

                        Oh the first four seasons of the fish share, we had enough cod to start our own drying business. Cod, cod, and then some more special cod. In fact, I am still working some of the leftover bits of cod I threw into the freezer!

                    2. My neighbors come home with striped bass and bluefish

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        In season, though. It is January, after all....

                        1. re: okra

                          True enough. They spend January drinking beer and watching football.

                      2. As for local caught fish, it depends on the time of year and how far out you are going. For instance, Bluefish and Tuna are more common in the summer. Overall I would say Striped Bass, Bluefish, Cod, and Tuna are some common ones.

                        What people eat is a different story. I enjoy a fresh caught blue fish, but many people either don't like it or are turned off before even trying it because of the color and texture.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: Kinopio

                          And others are turned off by the multitude of cookbooks insisting that bluefish must be smothered with mayonnaise to be palatable. It's fish! Throw it on the grill and eat it with salt and lemon!

                          1. re: emannths

                            Grilled bluefish is okay, but what you really want to do is hot-smoke that sucker and serve it on top of greens.

                            1. re: emannths

                              I LOVE bluefish cooked just about any old way.

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                Me too. And raw, too. Especially the cheeks. And I smoke whatever I can't immediately eat.

                                1. re: tdaaa

                                  Sadly, most folks are only used to supermarket, fish store bluefish, which, if you are lucky is a day or two out of the water.

                                  Nothing quite like bluefish caught 3 hours ago...

                                  1. re: tdaaa

                                    Bluefish is edible & tasty raw? I'm a huge fan,but have never eaten it sashimi style.

                                      1. re: cods

                                        admittedly, I have never seen it formally prepared in a sushi place, but it is good when fresh. Don't think I would try it with supermarket bluefish.

                                2. re: Kinopio

                                  I love bluefish too. Grilled, smoked, whatever.

                                  1. re: trufflehound

                                    Can you please post some instructions on how to smoke blue fish on the home cooking board. I have the smoker but always feel intimidated. Thank you in advance!

                                    1. re: galka


                                      here's warm smoked

                                      bonito from the Sea of Cortez.. small tuna family similar to mackereal..sashimi and tartare for lunch today..:) no smoking equipment

                                      1. re: 9lives

                                        I generally use whatever is on hand... my favorite is tea-smoked (equal amounts tea, rice and sugar) I will generally use a charcoal kettle, let the coals die down and move them to one side. Put the smoking materials in foil, directly on coals, put fish as far away from heat as possible. Cover grill tightly, don't open too soon. Takes about 15 minutes for a filet, depending on temp. I then cool it and freeze in plastic wrap and foil, defrost before using. Can eat it straight, mix with cream cheese for spread, etc.

                                        I have a fancy offset smoker at home, works just as well. Bluefish, mackerel, etc work great as they have strong flavor that can hold up to the smoke without being overwhelmed.

                                3. Haddock, Cod, Flounder, Tuna and seasonal Sea Bass or Halibut. I'd check CH threads in the Boston board for seafood resto's. You'll find examples like The Causeway in Gloucester, Legal in Boston and the burbs, McCormick & Schmick in Boston, Catch of the Day in the NE.

                                  1. I think the most common and "iconic" Boston fishes are cod, haddock, and schrod. Schrod can be either younger cod or haddock. There's not a lot of difference between these fish and although they can be cooked in various ways there are many, many places that broil them with some butter and bread crumbs. Best place to eat this? For this simple preparation just about anywhere you can be sure the fish is fresh would be OK. A place like Legal's would be fine for something like this. Legal's sometimes gets knocked because they don't have the most creative of menus and they are a chain, but they have strict quality-control procedures to ensure that their fish is fresh and not contiminated.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: pemma

                                      Uh oh.... You just said something good about Legal's. When I praised their quality control procedures in a previous post I got pummeled.

                                      Thanks for defining schrod! For some reason I'd always thought it was identical to cod (at any age, and completely different from haddock altogether).; thanks for pointing out the exact definition.

                                      1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                        I think it's more commonly cod, but could be haddock, too.

                                        1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                          There's nothing wrong with their quality control measures, just the chefs in a lot of the branches. Beautiful fish isn't worth a damn if you don't cook it well...Some branches (the Northshore Mall really stands out) do bad things to good fish.
                                          Also, I think the advertising campaign they run, casting foul aspersions on "other" fish mongers, who, by their silence, are branding as selling "untested" fish, is silly...With the regulations we have on the seafood industry, people usually don't get sick from fish, they get sick from cross-contamination...

                                        2. re: pemma

                                          I always thought the scrod = small cod and schrod= small haddock

                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                            This was discussed before here....and no consensus was reached:


                                            I don't think the spellings really indicate anything, except maybe at Legal Sea Food

                                            1. re: Dave MP

                                              Scrod is just white fish, catch of the day period: haddock, cod, hake, pollack. Ask any old time fishmonger, heck call New Deal.

                                              Or even better, leave it to google:




                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  well back in the olden days when I waitressed myself thru school and spent a few summers in Woods Hole, that was what I was taught. And many people would ask if we were serving cod or haddock. I don't think hake or pollack were ever in the mix.

                                          2. I would think the most popular fish eaten is salmon considering the ubiquitous sightings at grocery stores and restaurant menus.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: LStaff

                                              The northwest salmon fishery is actually dying...either from all the seals or from the water they're draining out of the breeding grounds near LA so the people there can water their lawns :-P
                                              Only freshwater salmon in the NE area AFAIK, and you have to head north to a lake or west to NY to catch them in any decent sizes/quantities...

                                              1. re: Spike

                                                I think the keyword in the OP topic line was 'caught'. Most salmon that you see in your mega-mart are farmed not caught. So I'd exclude non-wild salmon from this thread.

                                            2. The difference between freshly caught bluefish and store-bought is night and day. I was amazed, based on all the bluefish hate I've seen over the years.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                That's because they're an oily fish and get a really strong taste quickly. They're best if bled, iced and eaten the same day. Same w/ mackeral...live mackeral hours old, filleted, floured and fried..taste like candy, which is probably why stripers love them so much. I hate the pickled mackeral "sushi" you get at restaurants...way too fishy tasting, and I like bluefish....

                                                1. re: Spike

                                                  One really nice thing to do with pole caught mackeral is to make a fresh mackeral gravlax. Truely amazing after a 6-8 hour sugar, salt, dill, and spices cure, then sliced thin and eaten raw.

                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                    Yum! In Norway, we'd catch and smoke mackeral ( a little soggy and hard to light), delish!

                                              2. Most finfish sold and served in Boston is not local. Sad but true much of the time, and has been for a while, since the fisheries collapsed. The days when Boston's Fish Pier was one of the greatest in the world are come and gone. (It looks and smells much nicer now that it's not as heavily used....)

                                                The local fin-fisheries are a shadow of their former selves. Haddock has come back somewhat, but THE fish that made the Gulf of Maine and the banks of the North Atlantic - cod (so important that a wooden effigy of The Sacred Cod hangs over the dais of the Massachusetts House of Representatives) - is still in danger. I would say that you should seek out salt cod (bacalao in Portugues, bacala in Italian) dishes to get a taste of a fading tradition before it dies out entirely.

                                                Shellfish is a better picture. This time of year, the premier shellfish are bay scallops from Nantucket and Maine shrimp. Many New Englanders believe many types of shellfish are coming into their best season and best in the late winter, when the ocean is coldest (ocean temps bottom out in late February).

                                                And then there's squid. One of the great squid fleets sails out of Galilee (Point Judith) in Rhode Island. Hence, New England's love of calamari done in the Italian, Portuguese or Asian manners....

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                  In the spring, you can catch squid pretty much anywhere (bridges, docks, etc.) in RI at night. On a good nigh you can fill a bucket...

                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                    hi karl, i feel like i haven't seen a post from you in a long time. hope you're o.k. if you do happen to see this post, i wanted to ask you about your squid fleet reference. My understanding has been that it's very difficult to source fresh squid in boston. My past vendor, Ipswich Seafood, only sold it frozen.And iirc, the Courthouse Seafood guys sell only frozen octopus from Portugal; never have fresh. so i wonder where the squid goes that is caught by the squid fleet in R.I.?.....

                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                        the lead in of the article is great but i can't seem to get to the rest of the article. maybe subscribers only....

                                                      2. re: opinionatedchef

                                                        not karl and not sure where you shop, but i see fresh, local squid all over. point judith is most famous, but "narragansett bay" squid is out there too. however, season is mostly spring/season.

                                                        have seen fresh octopus at h-mart, but unsure of the origin since i don't buy it.

                                                    1. You can get statistics for major regional commercial fish markets here: http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/marke...
                                                      Doesn't include the farmed shellfish. Gives an idea of what's coming in. Lots of cod.

                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                          Just never get smelt from Shaw's...thought the back bay one was safe for seafood, but noooooo :-P

                                                          1. re: Spike

                                                            Smelt are so delicate they really have to be super fresh.

                                                            1. re: StriperGuy

                                                              Agree, they gota be really fresh, I've had some good ones at The Causeway, small and tender.

                                                              1. re: treb

                                                                A gallon a day limit, for smelt, in Me., for free, just need a net, a bucket and a moon lit night!

                                                        2. In terms of recreational catch, you're without a doubt looking at cod as being the highest with Striped bass as a close second.

                                                          In the spring you are allowed to literally fill the boat at 10 steaker cod per person. The parking lots in Marshfield and Scituate are filled with cars from NY and NJ bringing totes of fish home.

                                                          6 people per charter boat @ 200 lb average haul = 1,200 lbs of take home catch.

                                                          Striped Bass is 2 fish per person per boat.

                                                          Haddock is unlimited but much harder to catch than cod or pollock. Haddock are picky.

                                                          In the fish business, as for scrod, we use it as a size designation. 8-12 oz fillet is schrod haddock or schrod cod. Large is 12-16 oz. Xl 16+ ounce. Our customers use the designation schrod as whatever fish they need to move that day.

                                                          1. Bluefish
                                                            Things to do
                                                            1) bleed the Bluefish as soon as you catch it by cutting the throat in a bucket of salt water. This will get rid of all the blood in the bluefish making the fillets almost white and really good tasting .
                                                            2) Take a fillet and put on tin foil with a layer of HELLSMANS mayo on the whole topside of the fillet and bake it or broil it .I prefer Baking until the Mayo has a Golden color to it and the fish is cooked . You can use Thousand island Italian dressing in place of the Mayo. They both are great .Once you have it this way , you will always have it this way . Bluefish that has not been bleed right away stinks. I have sold over 1000 lbs.
                                                            of Bluefish Fillets and the markets that I sold it too could not keep up with the demand for them .People raved about them. Caught on the MIJOY , Niantic CT
                                                            sold it

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: wnight1

                                                              >Take a fillet and put on tin foil with a layer of HELLSMANS mayo on the whole topside of the fillet and bake it or broil it

                                                              Blech. (imho)

                                                              Bluefish is excellent: just salt it and grill it to a temp in the mid-130s. No coverup needed.

                                                              1. re: wnight1

                                                                you resurrected this old thread to talk about 1000 island dressing on bluefish? ick.

                                                              2. Lucky you
                                                                I wish I was living there .As far as seafood goes , I have not been there in a long time and everything has changed . As far as fish go , at a restaurant ,this time of the year .It is Cod ,Haddock and myself . I like Flounder . There is really good fish markets in Boston down by the fish piers that cook your dinner right there and it is a restaurant also .It is one store combined. When you get into Boston down by the fish piers ,Just stop anyone on the street and ask them where the best seafood places are .They will be more then happy to tell you .
                                                                Have fun

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: wnight1

                                                                    Those days are gone with the wind. The Seaport & Innovation Districts have transformed the harbor/pier areas in the past 15 years.