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Where is the best fishmonger in San Diego?

Where can I buy the freshest fish in San Diego? I want the best wild caught, fresh fish. Fish at grocery stores is usually frozen and thawed and it looks like its been frozen and thawed. Want to find a fishmonger that makes it a priority to sell a wide assortment of fresh, wild caught fish.

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  1. Catalina Offshore. To get directions, hours, sign up to be notified of weekend sales, go to www.catalinaop.com

    When you drive up, it looks like a business office. Just walk inside.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cathy

      I know it's probably sacrilege to say this, but Catalina doesn't always have the freshest fish. There have been at least three items that have not passed the smell test in past orders. I've been there on Saturday only so that might make a difference. My advice is to be very careful when ordering. If you get a whole fish be sure the eyes are clear and the gills nice and red.

    2. I have been happy with fish from Point Loma Seafoods. Just avoid going at lunchtime on a weekend!

      5 Replies
        1. re: globalevent

          You set your own priorities. You can get an awesome piece of fish for what 5 coffees cost at Starbucks.

            1. re: globocity

              What I'm trying to say is that many people drop $3 a day for a cup of coffee, but won't pay $15 for a nice piece of fish.

              1. re: firecooked

                Sorry--my "compared to where?" question was to globalenent. Your comment was quite clear and a good one.

        2. See Cathy's post, it's right on!

            1. re: chezron

              Her post is just at the top of this thread.

            2. Whole Foods Hillcrest. Ranch 99.

              Both have a wider selection than Catalina (smaller whole fish, whole raw baby squid, head-on shrimp, live clams and mussels etc), or any other local shop unless you pre-order. Catalina, Blue Water, Pt Loma are great if it's large fillet pieces you want, some of it local.

              12 Replies
              1. re: SaltyRaisins

                Salty, Ranch 99...really? Last time I was there, which admittedly was a while ago, the fish tanks were pretty dirty and they always seem to be overcrowded on the weekends. Has it changed?

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  Yes, nothings really changed, but their live offerings (no pun) are worth it. I think there's a general notion that local family seafood sellers somehow have non-frozen fresher product than bigger retailers, and this is false. In fact, I'm totally fine with frozen seafood that has been handled properly since even a few minutes of improperly refrigerated "fresh off the boat" fish, especially larger species, can lead to wicked scromboid poisoning. Worse, there's no off smell or discoloration when this happens. I'm also pretty down on the tuna fishing scene these days, and the local markets seem to base their businesses around its sale.

                  Thuan Phat on Linda Vista has similar stuff as Ranch 99, and is much cleaner. I always forget to mention it.

                  1. re: SaltyRaisins

                    will Thuan Phat kill and clean the fish to order? I haven't asked.

                    1. re: SaltyRaisins

                      Thuan Phat is not cleaner than Ranch 99. It stinks of rot from the parking lot. Great selection of "non-perishables" there though. H Mart is much cleaner than both of them with better selection but still not even in the same league as Catalina. If you are heading down to Thuan Phat though, there is an incredible exotic fruit nursery hidden in a neighborhood right near by - Ong's.

                    2. re: DiningDiva

                      Every time I see the fish in the tank at 99 and the like, I think of the toilet scene from Trainspotting.

                      If they are willing to set that as a standard for cleanliness, I'm not going to buy the other fish either.

                    3. re: SaltyRaisins

                      Whole Foods Hillcrest usually thaws their frozen fish. They also have some fresh fish but sometimes they have been sitting there quite awhile. They also sell WAY too much farmed fish. I want good fresh fish. I want to go where they care that the fish is wild caught and abhor farmed fish.

                      1. re: chezron

                        Honestly, you'll need a boat and a license to do well with good seafood in SD. Kinda sad.

                        Or a speargun and flippers. And there's no more freezing going on at Whole Foods than Catalina OP.

                        I know it's a,sensitive topic, and I get your "abhorrence" of farmed fish. But I don't understand why sustainably farmed chickens are no prob but the same for fish is somehow not acceptable. The sea simply cannot handle the type of fishing we imagine is the best for our dinner tables. Too bad it's become a political assay.

                        1. re: SaltyRaisins

                          I don't think farmed fish in general is a problem but a lot of it is not sustainably farmed and creates therefore problems. For example Monterey seafood watch recommends not buying farmed salmon because of these reasons.

                      2. re: SaltyRaisins

                        If we're talking Whole Foods, I think the one in La Jolla is better than the Hillcrest location for seafood.

                        As to Ranch 99, yes, it's a bit grungy, but the selection and quality is good, and the prices are hard to beat.

                      3. Catalina Offshore...see Cathy's post.

                        Talk to Tommy, he won't steer you wrong.

                        1. I don't mind frozen fish IF it stays frozen until I prepare it, But freezing and thawing, and left to sit behind a glass is not good.

                          1. I'm not saying anything.

                            Well, ok.

                            Over the years, and on several occasions, Tommy has tried to place me in a headlock, has slobbered, and has made repeated unwanted advances on my person.

                            I've kept quiet about it until this time because I was afraid I'd lose my access to high quality fish products.

                            I wish to remain anonymous, and will continue to use a Fake Name.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Fake Name

                              So if I see an elderly man, at Catalina, in a headlock screaming UNCLE!!!, I'll look for that famous CH 'left eye wearing glasses' to see if it resembles the famous FN's.

                              1. re: cstr


                                Let's not get carried away.

                                Mature in appearance is ok. Perhaps scholarly. Strikingly mature.

                                1. re: Fake Name

                                  OK, refined and distinguished statesman but, I still like BC's 'avatar eye' description.

                                  1. re: cstr

                                    You need a avatar..
                                    Fakey is left eye..you could be right eye.

                                    Get on that..whatever you chose, it will be interesting, since I'm one of your biggest fans!

                              2. re: Fake Name

                                A small price to pay for some of the best seafood in San Diego......

                              3. Catalina Offshore but we're also a fan of Poppa's Fish who can be found at Farmer's Markets around town...

                                1. Do not go to Catalina Offshore Products! I repeat DO NOT GO THERE! I don't want to share any of the awesome fish Tommy has and too many people know about it already. Also, I like having San Diego's best chefs to myself whenever I go in there. I highly recommend the funky stink tanks at Ranch 99.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: FishGuy23

                                    These comments from fish sellers re: Asian markets and cleanliness are starting to put me off Catalina, a place I like. Frankly, I sense a bit of negative culture bias which is pretty uncool.

                                    Not to mention the strident tone of the ad copy I'm seeing here. Aren't there rules about this on CH?

                                    1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                      I buy whole fish at Asian markets; HMart has best quality and choice of those, but none of the people working would I consider 'fish mongers', which was the OP's request. I see the source of the fish at all the markets and at Catalina. Catalina has more fish caught in local waters.

                                      I shop at 99Ranch, Thuan Phat and Lucky, where I touch and pick out the fish, they clean it, and 50% of the time, I also get it fried, so it's ready to eat. I also buy the already fried tilapia from steam trays in Mexican Markets as well as the masgoof prepared tilapia from steam trays in Mediterranean/Chaldean run Markets.

                                      I'm not averse to the ethnic markets in the least and the prices there are good. I've never had any 'muddy' nor 'fecal infested' items from any of the markets where I shop.

                                      It was more that I was answering the OPs request of a 'fish monger who makes it a priority to sell a variety of fresh, wild caught fish'. Catalina is the only place I could think of that fits that description; Tommy does know his fish.

                                      1. re: Cathy

                                        A great response to a good question. I guess I missed that point. My comment was directed more at some other posts.


                                      2. re: SaltyRaisins

                                        Not sure what you want here, salty. The place is good, I like it, and it's the only place I buy fish. Except for salmon at Costco, which is crap, but easy when I'm buying Pelligrino and seaweed snacks for lunch boxes. Good product, nice folks not sure what else to tell you.

                                        Trying not to resent your suggestion it's ad copy. That's pretty uncool.

                                          1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                            Sorry if I offended you.
                                            I shop at the Asian superstores all the time. In my opinion, Thuan Phat still has a decent amount of the leftover smell from Viet Dong III. Every time I walk in the front I smell it (even from the parking lot). I still shop there, I just don't buy meat or produce or fish there. I sometimes get the ducks at Yum Cha too since even though the dim sum isn't very good, their ducks are often quite good. I also get sushi accoutrements at Mitsuwa (even though their prices are often high).
                                            I usually buy produce, meat, and even seafood regularly at H Mart. Can't beat the 6.99/lb cold water lobsters or the crazy selection. I also don't think any of those places have the same kind of "talk to your fish guy and find out what's caught around here" feel that the original poster asked for.
                                            I can't imagine relying on one of those places for my regular fish purchases (as per the moniker, we make fish 4 or 5 times a week).
                                            I think you misread a difference of opinion as some slight against Asian stores.

                                            1. re: FishGuy23

                                              Misread? Fine, whatever.

                                              Original poster asked for "fresh wild caught fish." This information is listed in Asian markets per USDA requirements. You're right that there may not be someone with the knowledge there to help you pick, and for that Catalina has most places beat (I don't dislike Catalina, if you read above). If you know a little about fishing practices and sustainable/unsustainable aquaculture in some of these countries, you'll do pretty well, and won't inadvertently eat farmed tilapia or whatever. Thuan Phat and Catalina are entirely different ballgames. I probably shouldn't have even mentioned the Asian markets here.

                                              I get trollish about fish markets because I have yet to see a market in the area that comes close to average, neighborhood markets in many of the countries I've been to recently. Even in poor Tunisia, where no foodie culture exists, the fish markets open early, have only whatever was caught hours ago and feature smaller, tastier near-shore fish and shellfish. There is nothing like getting fresh seafood at these places, and I tire of seeing the refrigerator cases filled with huge slabs of tunny species here in SD all the time.

                                              I promise to shut up now.


                                    2. After reading about Catalina Offshore in Caron Golden's blog "San Diego Foodstuff", it was definitely on my "to-do" list to go. I finally decided yesterday to make a trip down there after hearing the recommendations here on Chowhound. The place was bustling and almost everyone said Hi or Welcome when I entered. I was immediately drawn to the beautiful Sashimi Grade Ahi where they had perfectly cut sizes for me to pick from. Ate it nigiri style and it was outstanding!

                                      Also picked up some little-neck clams and am looking forward to cooking those up tomorrow.

                                      While I was waiting for the clams, I was greeted by Tommy Gomes who educated me on some different fish that I was unfamiliar with. What a friendly guy! He also greeted the various chefs who were coming in for their daily pickups and his friendliness really came across as genuine and caring. I'll definitely be back!

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: LisaSD

                                        "What a friendly guy! "

                                        Are you SURE you were in the right place?

                                        1. re: LisaSD

                                          I just wish the hours were better since i have a day job and can't get there during the week. At least they are open on Saturday now. I get the feeling they don't like it when someone comes in just to buy a single piece of fish.

                                          1. re: MrKrispy

                                            I used to feel the same way when they were an office- but with the new retail counter I thought it was much better.

                                        2. Oh, I found the actual article that covers Catalina Offshore in depth...I think this will help you in your search chezron.


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. How come no one has mentioned The Fishery (which has a market in the front, and you can order what you want if it's not there); or El Pescador in La Jolla. Their fish counter is gorgeous, with lots of locally caught species.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: SuperFineSugar

                                              Yep. El Pescador is my fishmonger/market. Great selection. Moving to a bigger location across the street soon. I do like The Fishery, but I'm a little leery because the last time we bought from them our swordfish was a little past primetime if you know what I mean.

                                              1. re: foodiechick

                                                Really like El Pescador, they probably are overlooked 'cus of their size. BTW - the move across the street appears to be really lagging. Not a fan of Fishery.

                                              2. re: SuperFineSugar

                                                Both of these places ROCK and are great to buy fresh seafood from.

                                              3. Bump. I have been to Catalina Offshore 10 times now. Have never gotten bad or even average fish there. Can't say that about Blue Water or El Pescador, and I think they are both reliable.

                                                Let's put it this way - when I go to Catalina, I get kissed a lot more by my wife, and my daughter is much better behaved than normal. Everybody is happy. And although I always see Tomme there, I've never talked with him. He always seems to give me a skeptical eye when he sees me, which probably means he has good judgement.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. Thanks RB Hound! I do love Catalina Offshore, especially since Whole Foods sells so much farmed fish now. I will never buy farmed fish!

                                                  1. I think H Mart is great.

                                                    Today was evidence of that. Crabsand clams, monkfish heads and prawns.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      I'm surprised by all the H Mart love here. Every time I got fish from them, it *seemed* fresh, but always turned out not tasting right. Plus, they always gave off a ton of water while cooking.

                                                      I suspect that they treat their fish with some sort of preservative. But, I'm not buying more to find out.

                                                      I'm always 10 times happier buying my fish from Mitsuwa or Nijiya or Lucky.

                                                      1. re: AtomicSuplex

                                                        Never had any problems with HMart (and we use them regularly for their fish as we live just around the corner). Only their scallops are full of STP

                                                    2. Catalina is where I buy most of my fish but there are other good options. The San Diego Fisherman's Working group is a collection of local fisherman who used to sell their fish right off the side of their boats on Saturday mornings though I find most of them (or rather the fisherman and their wives) now sell their fish at the San Diego Fisherman's Farmer's Market down on Harbor Drive. It's a great place to find what is fresh, locally caught, and seasonal.


                                                      As others have said Hmart is probably the best of the Asian markets but it is also the most expensive. Personally, I do a fair amount of shopping at Sea Food City and Lucky Seafood because they're close to where I live and convenient but you do have to pick and choose to find the best. As long as you know how to tell what looks fresh and what doesn't then you can get quality fish at reasonable prices.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: oerdin

                                                        Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't they stop doing that Fisherman's market on Harbor Drive back in January?

                                                        I know the Poppa's Fish guy from the Little Italy and Hillcrest farmers market just opened a storefront in Logan Heights. Apparently, he does tacos, a seafood pho, and has a fresh seafood case, as well.

                                                        1. re: Stiflers_Mom

                                                          I think they've actually moved somehwere over close to Embarcadero Park. On Saturdays if the information I got was correct

                                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                                            It will be on Fridays, but not sure when they're starting up again.

                                                      2. Catalina Offshore. Love that place.

                                                        1. Just had THE best huge shrimp from Catalina Offshore. They were 10 per pound and caught down in Baja. They were the best shrimp I have ever had! I made honey walnut fried shrimp. OMG

                                                          23 Replies
                                                          1. re: chezron

                                                            I've been craving big time honey walnut shrimp..

                                                              1. re: RB Hound

                                                                Panda Express let's see…Farmed shrimp fed antibiotics and gmo feed housed in some disgusting polluted enclosure, and honey laced with high fructose corn syrup shipped from China, and walnuts sprayed with pesticides and treated with Propylene oxide, a known carcinogen, and milk from cows fed gmo feed and given antibiotics and bovine somatotropic hormone which gives them cancer…NICE!!!!! That's Not what I want to eat.

                                                                Compare that to my dinner:

                                                                Wild Locally caught shrimp, Raw organic honey, raw organic milk, and locally grown organic green onions. Served with home grown arugula salad with organic raw milk gorgonzola cheese, locally sourced organic bacon, and walnuts in an organic maple syrup glaze.

                                                                  1. re: chezron

                                                                    Hey, just getting started! Panda Express: eggs from factory farmed chickens kept in darkness and filth and fed gmo feed. They pack in the chickens so they don't have room to move and cut off their beaks because they are insane because of the crowded conditions. Cornstarch from gmo corn heavily sprayed with roundup and other pesticides that cause cancer and a host of other health problems.

                                                                    So yeah, I am going to eat at home where I know where my food comes from. My chicken eggs come from the Dutch couple down the street who have chickens running around their yard eating bugs.

                                                                      1. re: chezron

                                                                        Roundup is a non-selective systemic herbicide, not a pesticide. It would kill any corn plants, including their roots, if it was inadvertently sprayed on them.

                                                                        Ethylene oxide is a naturally occurring chemical that plants produce. It promotes fruit ripening. The naturally-occurring concentration of the vapor depends on the density of the crop and wind conditions. Ethylene oxide (or propylene oxide, a close relative) is sprayed in a crop area as a rapidly evaporating liquid that enhances ripening before harvest. The vapor is absorbed by fruits and vegetables; it doesn't remain as a residue on the surface. Putting fruit into a plastic bag with a hole in it (to prevent rotting) creates a natural atmosphere of ethylene oxide that has the same effect.

                                                                        1. re: DoctorChow

                                                                          A pesticide kills pests. Weeds are pests that Roundup kills. It is a pesticide and more specifically a herbicide. Look it up. Propylene (not ethylene) oxide is the "pasteurization" treatment used on nuts.
                                                                          "Propylene oxide, also used in making polyurethane foams, antifreeze and hydraulic fluid, has been classified as a probable human carcinogen. And while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently allows PPO treatment of nuts, it has also made moves to ban the fumigant twice." I will not argue the minutiae with you. I just prefer to eat healthy food. You eat that other crap if you want. Have fun.

                                                                          1. re: chezron

                                                                            "You eat that other crap if you want. Have fun."

                                                                            and another gold star for charm.

                                                                          2. re: DoctorChow

                                                                            Ethylene is one of the key hormones in plants responsible for regulating ripening of fruits. It is an IARC class 3 carcinogen whereas ethylene oxide is an IARC class 1 carcinogen (proven carcinogen) and can actually inhibiting ripening in fruits.

                                                                            1. re: honkman

                                                                              Both propylene and ethylene oxide are carcinogens, but the amount of exposure that end consumers have to these chemicals is absolutely negligible. Farmers need to be concerned about their direct and prolonged exposure to it, but not the rest of us.

                                                                              But you're correct. It's ethylene and not ethylene oxide that plants produce naturally.

                                                                              And chezron is correct in that propylene oxide is used as a fumigant.

                                                                              1. re: DoctorChow

                                                                                Propylene and ethylene oxide (both are very reactive alkylating agents) produce chlorohydrins in food treated with propylene and ethylene oxide. Chlorohydrins are highly toxic and not volatile (just one of many papers):


                                                                                So we have to very concerned about the use of propylene and ethylene oxide as it (and subsequent products) have a potential harmful effect on humans

                                                                                1. re: honkman

                                                                                  Interesting and informative. TY for the additional info. I'll stand down on that one.

                                                                                  If you take the word "oxide" completely out of my original post, I believe that part of the post would have been correct. But ethylene isn't what chezron was talking about.

                                                                                  I stand by my remarks about Roundup in that post, however.

                                                                                  1. re: DoctorChow

                                                                                    I think the problem here is that to many chemicals are thrown together in this discussion which have very different uses and potential toxicities. Ethylene, propylene and their respective epoxides have all four very different uses. Chezron seems to overly believe in everything labeled organic is automatically without issues (she might want to read about the many different exceptions of compounds with questionable use and toxicities for something labeled organic) Whereas you seem to be a bit too little concerned about the use of some chemicals in the US (e.g. propylene oxide (and food treated with it like almonds) are banned in Europe because of its issues)

                                                                                    1. re: honkman

                                                                                      Anyway, I stopped by Catalina yesterday and saw some of those lovely U-12's from Mexico that Chezron mentioned. I was on a mission of a different nature and picked up two types of oysters -C-bad blondes and Neptunes from Baja (at least that's what they told me they were called) - nice, deep cupped, briny rascals that were perfect for the grill with some garlic butter, spinach and some grated parm - $10/dozen for both types.

                                                                        2. re: chezron

                                                                          Irony must be lost on your, Chezron. And though following threading isn't very easy here, it should have been clear that my response was to BeachChick and not to you.

                                                                          1. re: RB Hound

                                                                            Your lighthearted tongue-in-cheek reply to BC led to a minor avalanche, but some things got clarified in the process.

                                                                            I looked it up and it turns out that herbicides are a sub-category of pesticides. One for Chezron.

                                                                            However, Roundup, which is a powerful herbicide, would never be "heavily sprayed" on corn because it would kill the plants. One for me.

                                                                            And while ethylene is a naturally occurring chemical produced by plants that induces ripening, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide are not. One for Honkman.

                                                                            And, most importantly, Catalina Offshore has some really good oysters -- as well as those very large shrimp that Chezron was raving about -- right now. One for Stiflers_Mom.

                                                                            1. re: DoctorChow

                                                                              Uh no.

                                                                              Roundup Ready System

                                                                              Developed in 1974, Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides continue to be a perfect fit with the vision of sustainable agriculture and environmental protection. In fact, their use on Roundup Ready® crops has allowed farmers to conserve fuel and decrease the overall amount of agricultural herbicides used.

                                                                              Roundup Ready® Soybeans were commercialized in 1996, followed by alfalfa, corn, cotton, spring canola, sugarbeets and winter canola, which contain in-plant tolerance to Roundup® agricultural herbicides. This means you can spray Roundup agricultural herbicides in-crop from emergence through flowering for unsurpassed weed control, proven crop safety and maximum yield potential

                                                                              1. re: stevuchan

                                                                                That's astonishing. So there are some patent crop plants that have been developed over the past 20 years that can be directly exposed to Roundup. Just amazing. I wonder how widely they're planted...

                                                                                1. re: DoctorChow

                                                                                  One of the most interesting issues with Roundup plants is that they are sterile or also known as "terminator seeds" which means that farmers each year have to buy the most recent strain of seed from Monsanto.


                                                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                                                    ...which is one of the reasons farmers in less developed countries that have less industrial farming going on, are so anti-Monsanto. Where once they could collect seeds for next years' crop, now you can't...you're beholden to an agribusiness giant. Yeah, they may have solved your pest control issue, but as a result you have no choice but to buy their seeds in order to keep growing. Not a pretty picture

                                                                    1. re: chezron

                                                                      Chezron, how much $ per pound were 10 per pound Baja Shrimp? Thanks

                                                                      1. re: Norm Man

                                                                        The Monday email from CatalinaOP.com had the sale of the U-15 Wild Mexican White Shrimp for $24.99/lb