Shape of the Season, 2017

Every year in spring, we put together our best predictions for the fishing season, what we expect to be catching and when we expect to have it available to our members. By this time of year, we have heard the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ predictions, read scientific reports, listened to traditional wisdom, and spoken with each of our fishing families about their plans for the season.

Of course, the nature of fishing is that predictions can be wrong; expected returns can surprise us by not materializing, or fisheries that are expected to be poor can suddenly have a strong showing. But we’ve gathered as much wisdom as we can into this, our 2017 Shape of the Season!

Please note that live and fresh products are only available at the False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf in Vancouver while all our flash-frozen, smoked, and canned products are available at all pick-up locations.

Take a look and start planning how and when to spend down your 2017 share credits. Use our Right Size Calculator to help you calculate what size share you’ll need. Afterward, if you realize you’ll probably need a bigger share, we’d be so grateful if you right size your share now before the fishing season starts. This will help us enormously with planning and committing to fishing families.

Steve gutting sockeye at the first fresh fish pick-up last year.

 

2017 Salmon Snapshot:

Salmon runs predicted to be strong this year:

  • Northern troll-caught coho salmon off Haida Gwaii, July/ August
  • Mid-coast chum salmon, July/ August
  • Johnstone straight chum salmon, October

Salmon runs predicted to be weak this year:

  • Barkley Sound sockeye
  • Fraser River sockeye

 

Species Seasonal Summary:

Halibut

  • Season: March 10 through November
  • Available Fresh: throughout the season whenever timing allows. Watch for weekly newsletters for exact pick-up dates.
  • Available Frozen: May onward while quantities last

Spot Prawns

  • Season: May 11 to roughly June 8
  • Available Live: May 18 for several weeks
  • Available Frozen: starting early June while quantities last

Humpback Shrimp

  • Season: May 11 to roughly June 8
  • Available Live: May 18 onward at spot prawn pick-ups whenever available
  • Available Frozen: roughly May 25 onward whenever available

Dungeness Crab

  • Season: June to November
  • Available Live: Several pick-ups scattered throughout the season. Watch for weekly newsletters for exact pick-up dates.
  • Not available frozen at this time.

Salmon

  • Season: June 7 through late October
  • Available Fresh: throughout the season whenever timing allows. Watch for weekly newsletters for exact pick-up dates.
  • Available Frozen: year round or while quantities last

Lingcod

  • Season: Roughly May through October
  • Available Frozen at sea: early June throughout the year, while quantities last

Sidestripe Shrimp

  • Season: June through March
  • Available Frozen at sea: as early as August throughout winter.

Albacore Tuna

  • Season: Roughly July through September
  • Available Frozen at sea: August onward while quantities last

Live Oysters

  • Season: November through March
  • Available Live: Monthly throughout the season
  • Not available frozen or canned at this time.

 

 

Month-by-Month Shape of the Season:

April:

Halibut

  • The halibut quota fishery is open from March to November. Our newest halibut fisherman, Doug Kostering expects to make several short trips in this time, whenever he can get a 3-day window clear in the weather. He’ll bring us his catch in small, incredibly fresh batches. Whenever possible, we will offer these fresh at the Fishermen’s Wharf in Vancouver and immediately flash-freeze the rest for all our members.

May:

Spot Prawns: 

The spot prawn season happens every year in BC for just 40 days in May, after the prawns have finished spawning. This year, the spot prawn season will open on May 11.

The annual Spot Prawn Festival at the False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf will be held on Sat May 13.

The first days of the spot prawn fishery are mayhem as boats scramble to set traps in their preferred spots. In future days, the traps will only be pulled up, empty, re-baited, and re-set, so those first days of establishing your spot are crucial.

We’ll give our fishermen a week to get settled before we host our first spot prawn pick-up on Thu, May 18, 4:30-7pm at the False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf only. This is always a very exciting pick-up where members can meet the prawners, learn how to process and handle live prawns, and learn some cooking tips. We’ll provide more info about prawns as that date draws nearer!

Some of our fishermen will be bringing us live prawns for pick-up only at the Fishermen’s Wharf, while others will be de-heading and freezing at sea. We expect to have frozen spot prawn tails for our members by the end of May.

 

Humpback Shrimp: 

These large shrimp are an abundant and allowable by-catch in spot prawn traps. A little-known fishermen’s “secret,” we share these delicious shrimp with our members whenever possible. They won’t be available to pre-order online as you never know when we’ll catch them. But whenever we do have them, we’ll make them available to walk-ups at the Fishermen’s Wharf and frozen online when possible.

 

 

June:

Sockeye Salmon Gillnetting

The Fraser River and Barkley Sound sockeye runs are predicted to be small this year, but there should be average returns on the Nass River sockeye run which opens on June 7th this year.  So, your best chance for fresh sockeye salmon will be very early in the season, early June through to early July. But in a year when sockeye salmon is scarce, you can expect the price to skyrocket. Enjoy this salmon for the delicacy it is for special dinners – bright red, firm flesh with a classic salmon flavour, equally incredible as sashimi or cedar planked on the BBQ. Mmmm!

Whenever possible, we bring these beautiful, first-of-the-season fresh sockeye straight to the Fishermen’s Wharf so that our Vancouver members can take fresh whole fish straight from our hands. The rest of these fish are immediately flash frozen whole or filleted and then flash frozen, preserving that same, catch-day freshness for all our members including those farther afield and making them available throughout the year (while they last, of course!)

 

Lingcod

Our lingcod trollers, father and son Ray and Lee Roy Ubell, are planning to head out for an early-season lingcod fishing trip leaving Steveston around May 1 this year Ray and Lee Roy troll their way from Steveston up to Prince Rupert, catching and freezing at sea as they go. When they arrive in Prince Rupert, they ship the fish to us to be cut and made available to our members in all location. We expect them to offload in early June and hopefully have it for our members in mid-June.

Never had lingcod? If you love halibut, you’ll love lingcod! The ownership structure of halibut quotas makes the price of halibut unstable and often quite high, but lingcod prices still remain somewhat more stable making lingcod an affordable, delicious white fish alternative.

 

Troll-Caught Chinook Salmon

Salmon is so incredibly good for you and, fortunately, a low sockeye year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be eating salmon year round! We are so fortunate on the BC coast to have 5 species of abundant, sustainable, wild salmon.

After they deliver their lingcod to us, Ray and Lee Roy will head out from Prince Rupert trolling for chinook salmon. As each fish is pulled in on its line, it is immediately bled, gutted, and flash frozen at sea making for a very highly sought-after product! Again, they will bring their catch in to Prince Rupert once they have caught their quota and ship it down to us. We hope to have troll-caught chinook fillets for our members in July.

 

Dungeness Crab

The commercial crab trapping season runs from late June to November and Stewart MacDonald will be out crabbing in and around his prawn and salmon fishing trips.

During this time, market crab prices fluctuate wildly. When market prices bottom out and our fishermen can’t get a fair price for their crab, that’s when we step in, offering a fair-trade price to fishermen that they couldn’t otherwise get and still ensuring that members pay a competitive price. Because of this, we can’t predict exactly when we will offer live dungeness crab pick-ups, but we expect to have at least one in fall, and possibly more depending on how the season unfolds. At this time, we are only able to offer live crab to members at the False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf as we don’t have access to crab processing. But one day, we hope to able to provide frozen crab to all our members!

Sidestripe Shrimp

As soon as the spot prawn season ends, one our prawners, Scott Lincez switches over to his shrimping gear. From June right through until next March, Scott will catch these beautiful shrimp, de-head them aboard his boat, and immediately freeze them at sea, providing our members a year-round supply of local, sustainable, fair-trade shrimp!

 

July:

Salmon Gillnetting

  • If there is any fishing in Barkley Sound it could continue until mid July
  • Nass River salmon gillnet fishing may continue into July but it will shift from containing mostly sockeye salmon to mostly pink salmon
  • Skeena River gillnet salmon fishing mostly for sockeye salmon will take place in July. This run is not expected to be strong this year.
  • Mid-coast  area 8 chum salmon gillnetting (north of Cape Caution) is one of the few areas expected to be strong this year. Shaun expects to fish it from late July through early August.

Mid-coast chum salmon are expected to have another strong showing this summer. Chum are typically fished up river when their roe is ripest for the export market. However, river chum have begun their spawning journey in fresh water and their flesh become soft. However, when caught at sea, chum salmon are firm and flavourful, and their colour can vary from bright red to pale pink. In a blind side-by-side taste test of the 5 species of salmon, chum is consistently a favourite for flavour and texture. And at a lower price point that sockeye or chinook, chum salmon are ideal for your year-round weeknight family dinners.

 

Troll-Caught Coho and Pink Salmon

Once they have caught their chinook quota in June, Ray will likely head home and Lee Roy will stay on to fish for coho, again, bleeding, gutting, and flash freezing at sea and shipping down to us from Prince Rupert. This year, northern, troll-caught coho salmon are predicted to have strong returns off Haida Gwaii. These salmon can be just as bright red as a sockeye, equally delicious and nutritious, but more delicate in texture and, therefore, they need to be handled well. Our troll-caught coho are pulled in on a hook and line, carefully unhooked, gutted, and flash-frozen at sea, preserving their delicate texture and catch-day freshness. As with chum, these salmon come it at a lower price point than sockeye and chinook so enjoy these coho year round!

Often, trollers catch pink salmon while fishing for coho, but they are often paid so poorly for these fish that they don’t keep them. Since we pay our fishermen fairly for whatever we catch, we hope to have some beautiful, troll-caught pink salmon for our members this year as well. Pink are the smallest of the salmon species, with delicate, pale pink flesh. If handled poorly, they can become bruised and damaged. But when Lee Roy catches them with care and attention, immediately bleeds, gills, and guts the, and flash freezes them at sea, they are an incredibly high quality, delicious, nutritious staple for you to enjoy for your weeknight family dinners.

 

Albacore Tuna

Bruce and Pillar Martinelli will head out on a tuna-trolling trip in late June this year. A Canada-US treaty allows Canadian tuna trollers to fish south of the US border and vice versa, so that both Canadian and American fishermen can follow the migratory journey of these tuna up from Oregon up to the west coast of Vancouver Island. Bruce and Pillar’s tuna are frozen at sea and cut into loins in Vancouver. Sometimes there is a bit of a bottleneck waiting to get the tuna cut and out to members so we may not have loins available until August or September.

Albacore tuna are a fantastic choice for your meals year round! These small local tuna eat farther down the food chain than south pacific ahi or mahi mahi tuna so mercury or other toxins are not a concern. In addition, Skipper Otto’s fishermen are paid a living wage unlike the exploited labourers fishing off the Hawaiian coast making only 70 cents/ hour! Albacore tuna are particularly abundant on the eastern side of the pacific ocean (BC, Washington, Oregon, and California) and are frozen at sea, preserving their incredible freshness and making them sushi-grade.

 

August:

Gillnet Salmon

The only area expected to have much gillnet salmon fishing in August is the mid-coast chum. Shaun will continue to fish these while they last.

September:

Salmon

We are not expecting any salmon fishing in September. This is not a Fraser River sockeye salmon year and so the Johnstone Strait is not expected to open for late summer sockeye fishing.

By September, we usually have our largest selection of products available and so this is a great time to fill your freezers for the coming months!

October:

Salmon

Although it’s not expected to be a sockeye salmon year in the Johnstone Strait, we do expect a good return of chum salmon in this area in October. Shaun will head up to fish these last salmon of the year.

 

 November:

Halibut fishing closes this month.

Oysters

Although the fin fishing season is over by November, but this is the best time of year for oysters and clams. Delia Becker and Scott Rempel will harvest their clams and oysters at their farm on Cortes Island for several pick-ups between November and April, 2017.

 

Keep in mind that all of our frozen products keep their catch-day freshness and nutrition for a very long time, so there’s no need to stop eating seafood through the winter months. In fact, the high vitamin D levels in seafood make it especially valuable to have in your diet during the dark winter months. Stock up at your last pick-up of the year to get the best selection and to keep you eating seafood right through until your first pick-up of the new year.

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