Turkey as the main entrée for Thanksgiving dinner or over the Christmas holidays is not our only option. For a coastal community like ours, adjacent to some of the most prolific and productive fishing grounds along the entire West Coast, it is a good discussion to consider which ocean species can earn the title “turkey of the sea.”
Thanks to a powerful marketing campaign by one of the early canning companies, the title of “chicken of the sea” belongs to albacore which is an exceptionally tasty member of the tuna family. In fact, it is my own personal favorite from among that classy family.
The title of turkey of the sea is up for debate. I have a few ideas and a nomination.
My first thought is a tasty fish, which can be caught weighing every bit as much as a holiday dinner table turkey. I’ve caught them up to 30 pounds. It is the cowcod, a deep-water member of the rockfish family, which includes red snapper (a.k.a. vermilion rockfish).
Red snapper would be another good local nominee for the “chicken of the sea” title since it is local and abundant, but that title is taken.
The cowcod would be a great nominee, except that it is as yet unavailable. The stock has been successfully rebuilt, however the fisheries management processes have not yet allowed us to keep them.
A nominee that has some logical on its side is the lingcod. This is a hard-fishing fish and has rich meat that is delicious. I’ve caught them up to over 40 pounds, but a typical one is under 15 pounds. They live in rocky reef zones along with rockfish.
White seabass would be a phenomenal choice to serve as the tasty turkey of the sea because they are one of the best eating fish out there, and they are a prize catch.
Perhaps the main reason I don’t bestow the title on the white seabass is because they are a rare catch for most people. Sure, when we stumble on a hot bite it looks easy to catch them, however those hot bites are few and far between for most folks.
Halibut get my enthusiastic nomination for the turkey of the sea. It can be either our local California halibut or the related species Pacific halibut like the ones caught from NorCal up to Alaska. Both species taste great.
Our California halibut season is open year-round and are caught year-round, although May through October is the best season. People catch halibut right from the surf, from piers and from boats, meaning they are a relatively-available species.
Another option is to stop by your local seafood market where halibut is always on display and perhaps even on sale. Take some home, look up recipes, and your family will probably say it is as tasty as turkey. Halibut probably wont make you sleepy, as many folks say turkey does.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.