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Apr 30, 2011 07:55 PM

Where can I buy affordable fresh local fish?

Hey there, haven't been in the bay area for long and would love to know more about the fresh fish scene :)

Where does the local catch land / come from?

What is the local catch / how do I find out about this and what's in season and what's sustainable here?

Where is the best and cheapest place to buy fresh, local fish in San Francisco?

I have not had any success in finding wet fish shops that are not incredibly expensive (like the Ferry Building, or Whole Foods fish counter). I have bought fresh fish on the market in Filmore and Civic Center, but packed in ice for too long, doesn't taste fresh when you get it home...

I'm missing good fish! Especially whole fresh mackerel....

Look forward to finding out more from the Chow Hound experts!

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  1. dive into (so to speak) the stretch of Stockton around Clay to Pacific and on the part of Grant just below Broadway. they will be whole critters. sometimes still flopping live (if you wear contacts bring re-wet drops).

    2 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      Live fish in Chinaown can come from all over the place: Alaska, Mexico, wherever.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        true, I only addressed the fresh, affordable and preferably whole criteria on the list.

    2. First, local fish is expensive, unless you count whole squid and whole sardines. I don't think mackerel is from around here. Sand dabs are.

      The Monterey Aquarium list will tell you what's sustainable and local. It's on their website, and updated regularly.

      Berkeley Bowl has very fair prices on fish. I'm not up for the buckets in Chinatown myself, although Sunset Super is a pretty good option. Asian grocers like Ranch 99 tend to have very inexpensive fish, but much of it is from China and Thailand.

      If you're near Fillmore, several of the markets at Japantown (Miruwa, Super Mira, the one next to Soko Hardware) have fresh fish including sushi grade; not cheap, but high quality and they won't balk at small portions.

      Berkeley Bowl
      2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

      Super Mira
      1790 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA

      99 Ranch
      4299 Rosewood Dr, Pleasanton, CA 94588

      5 Replies
      1. re: Windy

        that was one thing that always astounded me in SF and was hard to explain to visitors - the rarity of cheapish local seafood (with some exceptions of course). I LOVE the Japanese markets, yes, not cheap, but perfect.

        1. re: hill food

          I'll second that. For a city on the sea alongside one of the best harbors in the world SF has shockingly bad local seafood (it's not that it doesn't it exist - it's that it's hard to find and very limited selection).

        2. re: Windy

          I've been on several local (Bay, Farallon Islands, etc) fishing trips, and caught mackerel, so its definitely local (or at least it can be).

          450 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

          1. re: chemchef

            thanks chemchef - that's good to know! hopefully someone out there is selling mackerel too...

            1. re: strouDAWG

              I saw mackerel at Monterey fish last week. I was surprised by how small they were. But then then I've only had canned. (yuck) Anyhow, I think everything they sell is local.

        3. Princeton Harbor in Half Moon Bay and
          All Shores Seafood in San Bruno--they get shipments daily and they deliver all over San Francisco to the grocery stores and seafood suppliers, even to Princeton Harbor in in Half Moon Bay

          36 Replies
          1. re: ROCKLES

            Yes, Pillar Point is where we get our local seafood too. Last time we were there, the fisherman said they'd be selling salmon off the docks starting around May 4th or 5th.

            1. re: artemis

              How much were you paying for salmon last season? I've always meant to do this.

              1. re: Windy

                I don't remember any boats selling salmon last year from Pillar Point. I would not be surprised to see $10/lb.

                Commercial salmon season opens today, but it is currently rough (windy) on the ocean.

                Last year, a commercial salmon fisherman out of Pillar Point claimed, "300 years of commercial salmon fishing experience could not catch one fish." 7 or 8 anglers each with 30-40 years of experience could not catch a salmon. I hope this year is more productive.

              2. re: artemis

                The boats at PIllar Point are definitely one of the best. Be careful about Princeton Seafood though, their prices can run high and may not be local (i.e. in the middle of dungeness crab season I went to the docks and no boats were selling crab - I went to Princeton and their crab was from Washington/Alaska which really bothered me since local dungeness could be sourced 200 feet away.)

                1. re: Bunson

                  If no boats were selling crab, in what sense could local Dungeness be sourced 200 feet away?

                2. re: artemis

                  It seems like ages since we've had local salmon! I've been hoping to get over there to try to get a whole one for Mothers' Day. Would you know what time the boats start selling? Is there a particular seller anyone can recommend?

                  1. re: pilinut

                    i saw some for sale by hudson fish co....they usually attend the berkeley farmers market on sat and thurs. i also see them at the el cerrito market on sat and the JLS market in oakland on sunday.

                    1. re: pilinut

                      The fisherman I spoke to in my post above was the Cricket. We got wonderful crab several times from the Cricket during the season. Forgive my landlubber nomenclature, but the Cricket seems to typically dock in the second set of docks on the left hand side of the pier, typically in the berth closest to the pier in that second row. He has business cards - I'll take a look at ours this weekend and post the number.

                      When we spoke a month ago, the Cricket man said he expected to start having salmon the first weekend of May. We'd love to buy a local salmon, but of course the fishermen sell them whole, which is too much for my household. Would anyone care to meet at the dock one weekend and split a salmon? Perhaps Memorial Day weekend? The Cricket guy said that the fish should run 9-15 lbs, and that people typically take it straight to the fish monger at the pier to be filleted, deboned, and/or split with someone they met at the dock ($5-8 fee at the shop, depending on fish size).

                      1. re: artemis

                        Have you considered making gravlax? There are only two of us, but we manage to go through a whole salmon with no trouble, and we are small people. I take one half and make gravlax (this is super easy to make). I keep the other half on ice the fridge and then over two days we eat it (either as tartar, baked, red curry, etc). On the third day the gravlax is ready, so we have that with rye and cream fraiche for the next few days. (I also make a stock with the head and bones). Btw, don't try this unless you love Salmon and can't get sick of it...

                        I definitely plan on going to Pillar point and getting a Salmon or two this season if possible... I will start calling the fishfone this weekend to see if they have any.

                        1. re: lrealml

                          ++ on gravlax! That's been my goto when there's cheap , local salmon to be had.

                      2. re: pilinut

                        We were at Pillar Point around noon today, and there was only one boat left selling salmon, but it wasn't the Cricket. The smallest one left was around 7.8 lbs, and the biggest ones were over 21 lbs. I settled for an 8.5 lb fish. Price was $12/lb; $11/lb for seniors.

                        The harbormaster suggests calling at around 9 a.m. to check on what's coming in that morning, and catches arrive everyday, weather permitting. Fishfone 650-726-8724.

                        One of these weeks, if I can find the time to make some gravlax, I'll post a query on the board to see if anyone wants to go down and share a salmon.

                        1. re: pilinut

                          We bought a 10 pound salmon on Saturday from Captain Dan on the Seabird-E dock. Grilled it for Mother's day and it was out of this world delicious. $10 per pound for locals, repeat customers or multiple fish-$11 per pound for everyone else. Our BIL slipped down to the docks after lunch to pick one up to take home.

                          Pilinut, we'd share one with you in a week or so...need to work through the leftovers of the Mother's day fish first.

                          1. re: artychokeasana

                            Thanks, artychokeasana! I'll ask around and see if any of my friends are interested so that maybe we can get more than one fish.

                            We enjoyed out salt-baked salmon tremendously, but it was a bit too much of an adventure trying to get a whole 29-inch fish into a 22-inch oven. Won't be attempting that again in the near future. (Unless there is some way of keeping a fish in a "curled" position.)

                            1. re: artychokeasana

                              Yesterday (Sunday) We scored a 9 pound salmon from FV MAGGIE on E dock for $9 lb. There are also some crab at $6 lb.( and not bad for so late in the season) from a boat flying a flag for "Jimbo's Jumbos" just cattywompous from MAGGIE. We are enjoying the salmon every which way and I swear I'll never take it for granted ever again.

                              1. re: little big al

                                Aw, I love the Maggie. The fisherman is friendly with a pelican he named Nigel who flies down and does tricks for fish when we were there last for crab. They seemed very simpatico.

                                1. re: little big al

                                  cattywompous (sp?!) golly haven't heard that word in well, a long time. it needs to be reintroduced.

                              2. re: pilinut

                                Hey Pilinut,

                                I"ve had uneven experiences cooking gravlax. Once was fantastic. And the next time, it was a dud. Unfortunately, I don't recall the recipe I used for the first one.

                                Perhaps you could post your recipe over on the chowhound home cooking board...

                                1. re: escargot3

                                  Hi, escargot, unlike you, I'm presently a purely "aspirational" gravlax maker. I've read about it--it sounded so easy that I've been dreaming of making gravlax for years. Now you are giving me pause. . . What went wrong? Perhaps we should go on the Home Cooking Board and research or ask for pointers: the hounds there are a singularly generous and helpful pack.

                                    1. re: wally

                                      lrealml: the recipe question was for you.

                                      pilinut; okee dokee -- i'll see ya over there.

                                      wally: to be precise: i prepared gravlax.

                              3. re: artemis

                                Anyone get a salmon lately? and if so how much are they now?
                                Thinking of going tomorrow (Friday) and buying one...

                                Also, have you been eating it raw/rare? I was reading that this is bad because of parasites.... is there a huge risk to this?
                                Although I have bought salmon quite a few times, only one time was it not previously frozen... We didn't get sick (that I know of), but maybe we were just lucky...
                                If I can't eat it rare or raw, I don't see the point to buying fresh salmon (fully cooked salmon is not for me).

                                1. re: lrealml

                                  There is a risk of parasites in raw wild salmon that has not been frozen.


                                  1. re: lrealml

                                    We bought a salmon from the docks last weekend. Delicious. Salmon season is over now but will resume a couple more times this summer. Best to call the fish fone to see what's on offer. We heard talk of black cod being up next.

                                    1. re: artychokeasana

                                      They've had them everyday this week according to the fishfone... I wish they'd put the message on earlier. We would have went yesterday, but the message did appear until late afternoon.

                                      How is everyone preparing their fresh salmon?

                                      Salmon cooked through to me is not tasty.

                                      1. re: lrealml

                                        Whole roasted on the BBQ-avoids the fish smell in the house and my husband and his brothers love to cook it that way. This equals more backyard/sunshine/wine sipping time for me ;-)

                                        1. re: artychokeasana

                                          Yum, sounds lovely... no sunshine this weekend unfortunately.

                                          Since the weather sucks, I didn't feel like driving to Half Moon bay, but I still wanted some salmon. Costco has a ton fresh wild copper river salmon today; whole minus the head for 7.99 and filleted already for 8.99.. I normally prefer to by it whole (to check the gills etc..), but for only a dollar more per lb. I couldn't pass up the fillets. So now I have to figure out how long I need to freeze it for or find a way to cook it so that it is not dry...
                                          I still hope to make it out to half moon bay and get a salmon there sometime this season.

                                          1. re: lrealml

                                            Yum! Copper River Salmon-that's worth a trip to Costco....
                                            I wouldn't try freezing it unless you have a flash freezer-which I am guessing you don't. I think you'll be safe if you just cook to about 135...and then let it sit until it gets to 140. One of my favorote indoor ways of cookin salmon is to slow roast it in the oven at aboyt 225 degrees --I genrally put a dollop of herbed mayo, or saffron mayo or ojai lemon mayo on the top before putting it in the oven-it adds flavor and and creates a sauce plus it masks all the collogen that comes to the surface as it cooks. It's easy and delicious.

                                            1. re: artychokeasana

                                              hmm... I just happen to have some homemade pesto mayo leftover from the other day...
                                              I think I might try that tonight... Thanks for the idea!

                                            2. re: lrealml

                                              Which branch of Costco did you buy the Copper River Salmon from?

                                              1. re: osho

                                                They had a ton of it at the Rohnert Park branch yesterday. I always freeze salmon. I cut into individual portions then marinate in EVOO, vinegar and/or lemon juice, salt and some herbs. Then freeze on a cookie sheet and transfer to bags. Is there something about this variety that makes it not come out well frozen?

                                                1. re: CyndiN

                                                  In general I would recommend against salting for storage. During the freezing and thawing process it leeches extra liquid out of the fish and makes it drier than the freezing/thawing process already does.

                                                  1. re: openhelix

                                                    Thanks for the tip. I haven't had any trouble but I use a very small amount. I can leave it out for sure and just add salt when cooking.

                                                2. re: lrealml

                                                  The Costco near SFO had fresh wild Copper River salmon today; whole minus the head for $5.99/lb and fillets for $13.99/lb. Today was the first day for the whole fish stand along with the jumbo Tiger prawns from Vietnam.

                                                  Bought a couple of whole salmon and each weighed ~6.5 lbs.

                                          2. re: lrealml

                                            Yes, salmon has to be cured for several days to be safe and even then.

                                            A friend who's a sushi chef said it's the highest health risk at a sushi bar, because of the prevalence of worms. I would only order raw salmon at a restaurant I knew very well.

                                      2. Local seafood: rock cod/sebastes often called pacific red snapper, ling cod, black cod, anchovies, sardines, mackeral, squid, salmon (starting May 1), crab, oysters, sand dabs petrale sole, white seabass, halibut, occasionally albacore in the summer/fall.

                                        South of SF, there is a harbor at Pillar Point, there are commercial fishing boats berthed there. Some of the boats have retail permits and sell off the boat. There is a list of boats outside of the harbormaster's office. Google Pillar Point Harbor master for a phone number. There is also a fish market at the harbor. There used to be commercial fish landings in Sausalito, closed about 5 years ago. San Francisco Pier 45, closed this year. I don't know of any ther landings in SF. Pillar Point, Moss Landing and Monterey still have commercial fish landings. Moss and Monterey try Sea Harvest, Moss try Phil's.

                                        Bottom line: there is not a lot of local fish, and "cheapest" isn't the best.

                                        1. If you want to know what's local, sustainable, and currently available, get on the Monterey Fish mailing list.


                                          It's a complicated issue. SF Magazine published a long piece a few months ago:


                                          But they got a lot of stuff wrong:


                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Thanks Robert - it is a complex issue indeed. Thanks for Montereyfish link, their sustainability advisory list includes mackerel, and it is local and sustainable.... just got to find where to buy it!

                                            1. re: strouDAWG

                                              Call them and ask, though it comes and goes.