North of Seattle Offers Plenty of Seafood Options
By Megan Monroe and Joanna Roddy
Catch, Cook and Chow Down in the North Sound
Northwest natives know that our regional treasure isn’t gold, it’s pink. We’re talking salmon and are we ever rich. We live beside an in-land sea with access to an ocean coastline beyond and an intricate network of rivers to the east. Whether you choose to cast a line, shop local seafood markets or rely on North Sound chefs for the season’s freshest — there are as many ways to enjoy seafood as there are waters to fish it. Discover where to drop crab pots in Puget Sound, buy local salmon to grill in the backyard, and sample perfectly prepared Possession Sound seafood stew in a seaside bistro. No matter how you decide to ingest our area’s Omega-3 abundance there’s nothing more quintessentially Northwest than experiencing the fresh bounty of Washington’s waterways.
Catch it Yourself
Seasoned anglers may have boats, gear and an obsession for the best technique or fishing locale, but someone just wanting to dip their toe in the water can still bring home a catch. May ushers in halibut, lingcod and shrimp seasons, and the tail end of spring razor clamming. June marks the beginning of freshwater fishing, including King salmon and steelhead found in the Snohomish and Stillaguamish rivers. And in July, Puget Sound crab season begins. Here are some ideas for casting your own line in these generous waters.
Charters Even if you aren’t a fishing expert you can still experience the thrill of catching your own. One of the simplest ways to ease into the world of fishing is using a local guide service. They provide a boat, a guide, bait, tackles, fuel and even sometimes lunch and licenses, leaving you to simply show up with proper clothing for an all-day (6–7 hours) fishing excursion in guaranteed catchwaters. Choose between river fishing for King salmon and steelhead (June) and ocean fishing for halibut and lingcod (May) or salmon (June–September). All Rivers and Saltwater Charters will run a Skykomish River trip departing from Monroe in June and July, and All-Star Fishing Charters offers river and ocean fishing out of Everett. If you want to set sail from the city, Fish Finders Private Charters runs ocean salmon trips from Seattle as well.
For fare fresh from Puget Sound the Edmonds Pier is the most popular with those seeking the path of least resistance. Open for fishing year-round, this simplifies a lot considering the complicated seasons and areas restricted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Lingcod, King salmon, pile and shiner perch, red rock and Dungeness crab, shrimp and the occasional school of smelt can all be caught here, mostly with just a line and rod or a ring trap. Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood and Angler’s Choice in Shoreline have expert staff and ample tackle and bait to get you started. If you’re a newbie out there, make sure to be respectful of other lines and types of fishing going on around you.
Puget Sound opens for crabbing midsummer, usually in early July, featuring red rock and the delectable Dungeness crabs. If you have access to a boat, dropping crab pots is a fruitful option. Browns Bay near Edmonds and Camano Island State Park are reported to be promising locations. You can also get crabs with nets and waders from the shore wherever there’s eel grass, their preferred habitat, or cast a ring net from a pier.
Digging for clams is another easy way to forage your own seafood. All you really need is a shovel, a good pair of eyes, and a legal public beach. While Snohomish County public beaches are off-limits for clamming, a short ferry ride to Whidbey Island gives you access to several state parks that are open year-round. Double Bluff State Park has the most variety, shellfish seekers can source primarily butter clams, as well as cockles, native littleneck, horse, eastern softshell and macoma clams on its long stretch of beach looking out to Useless Bay. Just make sure to call before you dig to ensure that shellfish is currently healthy for consumption (800) 562-5632.
The prized razor clam is strictly managed with assigned days, times and locations. Though restrictive, this also lends itself to a bit of an adventure, joining other diggers in a communal clam hunt on one of Washington’s coastal beaches at low tide. Watch the WDFW website for potential May digs.
Fishing Fine Print: Licensing and Catch Records
The WDFW requires a license for any fisherman over 15 years old. There are a variety of options available, depending on where, what, and how long you intend to fish and most require using a Catch Record Card. The WDFW website and downloadable Fishing Pamphlet can be found at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing.
Find It Fresh
While Pike Place Market in Seattle remains a well-deserved standard for fresh, regional seafood embodied in the romantic notion of the market fish monger, there are plenty of alternatives north of Seattle for buying “curl in the tail” fresh fish, live crab and responsibly sourced seafood of every kind.
Central Market is the premier fish market of the North End. From its Shoreline and Mill Creek locations, Central Market serves an awe-inspiring seafood selection: live crab, oyster, clam and lobster tanks, pristine filets behind the case, whole fresh fish — clear-eyed and without a scale missing — and a frozen section with anything not in season and specialty items like gluten-free battered halibut and cioppino. They have fresh octopus, squid, Penn Cove mussels, scallops, you name it.
But more than selection, Central Market prides itself on the quality of its products, including Bruce Gore, the industry standard for quality fish with individual serial numbers, tracking exactly where each fish was caught and how it was handled from the hook to your shopping cart. Central Market works closely with vendors and has direct relationships with the fishermen themselves, who know from the boat which fish will suit their high standards of quality and sustainability.
What really makes Central Market’s seafood department special is its staff. While at supermarket chains there’s no telling the experience of the seafood associates, Central Market employs career experts. Bryan DePew, the seafood manager at Mill Creek has been selling and preparing seafood for more than thirty years. Watching him heft a child-sized first-of-the-season halibut and expertly break it down to gorgeous firm white filets is to watch an artisan at his craft. Chris King, the seafood specialist for Central Market, explained that all of this adds up to a customer-centered value system. They want to provide quality, healthy, affordable seafood with consistency. “The point is access,” King said. Managers have the freedom to carry the best product, even if it means selling it below cost.
Edmonds Summer Market plans to have several seafood vendors this year. Wilson Fish is a favorite, bringing fish caught by their small boat in Neah Bay and their own smoked salmon. The fish they bring to market might be the freshest you can find without catching it yourself, never more than 48 hours old, and often much less than that. St. Jude will be there with its sustainably caught, guaranteed low mercury, high-omega 3 albacore tuna. And Happy Fish plans to be at several Snohomish County farmers’ markets with Dungeness crab and bay shrimp gourmet salads.
Surf the Net
For seafood delivered to your door, check out some of the local providers with online service. Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics, based out of Ferndale, ships frozen, canned and smoked seafood, and specialty items like salmon bacon and salmon chorizo (vitalchoice.com). Full Circle’s weekly produce box also offers fish, crab meat, scallops, prawns, lox and smoked trout from Seattle’s Surfin’ Seafood (fullcircle.com).
Shelton based and family-owned Taylor Shellfish — the largest producer of farmed shellfish in the U.S. — grows sustainable shellfish in their nurseries and are vocal stewards of our state’s priceless marine environment. Taylor’s online store ships the freshest Olympia oysters, Manila clams, Small Pacific mussels, and live geoducks in custom packaging to your front porch (taylorshellfishstore.com). So, as you can see, there are lots of ways to get your hands on fresh seafood nearby.
Nosh (No Hook or Cook Required)
Fine seafood dining in the Northwest has a reputation for being the best. Seattle’s city proper is loaded with some of the most renown first-rate restaurants that glean seafood goodness from the vast marine resources nearby. From waterfront dining along the Pier, West Seattle and Edmonds to offshore eateries stocked with flawless and locally sourced fish, there are establishments aplenty to satiate sea foodies.
The Big Fish: Anthony’s Homeport
Anthony’s Homeport Everett on Port Gardner Bay overlooks the largest saltwater marina in the Pacific Northwest with majestic views of Camano, Whidbey and Hat Island against the Olympic Mountains. The dining room at Anthony’s Homeport Edmonds is just as stunningly situated for witnessing Washington ferry boats gliding across the Puget Sound. Dedicated to developing the freshest fish menu possible, Anthony’s opened its own wholesale seafood company in 1984 to consistently offer guests the highest quality seafood available.
Focusing on seasonal and sustainable, they offer a “Best of Season” menu that includes wild runs of fresh Chinook (King), Silver and Sockeye salmon as well as Alaska halibut, lingcod, petrale sole and rockfish. They rely on local shellfish suppliers to bring the finest Dungeness crab, clams, mussels and oysters to the menu. For the resident boatman (or woman), both of these Anthony’s locations offer free moorage dining options. The Port of Everett Marina boasts six hours guest moorage and the Port of Edmonds Marina provides four on the I, J & L docks.
Other waterfront options include the much less sprawling real estate of Arnie’s which has two locations in Edmonds and Mukilteo. A community institution operated for the last 25 years with an emphasis on preparing local products, their weekly fresh sheets give diners a clear view of what’s currently being caught in the waters they overlook. A popular Arnie’s pick is the Seafood Platter which includes an excellent variety of char-grilled salmon, sea scallops, prawns and steamed Manila clams for a reasonable $24 price tag.
Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing may be a reproduction of the original fish stand started by Ivar Haglund on Seattle’s Pier 54 in 1938, but people still line up outside to take a steaming bowl of Ivar’s famous Northwest-style white clam chowder to go. Others amble inside to sit and slurp the Possession Sound Seafood Stew crammed with Alaska Snow crab legs, salmon, halibut, jumbo prawns, scallops, Manila clams and mussels in a tomato-saffron fennel broth.
For those east of the I-5 corridor, you don’t have to brave after-five traffic to get to the waterfront for fabulous fish and shellfish. Sockeye’s in Monroe may be situated on man-made Lake Tye, but the seafood menu resembles anything you’d find seaside. The lightly battered lingcod fish and chips served with fries and house made coleslaw is the perfect choice for patio dining with a frigid draught beer.
Emory’s on Silver Lake is a Northwest-style lodge that overlooks the lake’s sparkling waters. A recent patio renovation includes a stone fireplace and ceiling-stocked heaters, so you can enjoy waterfront dining whether the weather cooperates or not. The steamed Northwest clam broth is a sop-worthy blend of olive oil, white wine, garlic, and lemon-infused herbs, while the Tortellini with Shrimp and Lobster Sauce can satisfy the strongest seafood-meets-starch cravings.
Excellent offerings can be found at Blackfish inside the Tulalip Resort and Casino. A restaurant© Ivar’s© Ivar’s dedicated to embracing the culture and traditions of area Native American tribes. The most popular dish, Salmon on a Stick, is ironwood impaled wild Salmon smoked over smoldering alderwood coals. Speaking of inventive seafood, Edmonds’ Five Corners restaurant Bar Dojo spins seafood sideways serving oysters on the half shell with ginger mignonette and spicy radish puree and Black Cod Kasuzuke with avocado rice, grilled peppers and cilantro aioli. Bonefish Grill located off Bothell-Everett Hwy serves up a variety of fresh fish from salmon and seabass to Tilapia and Mahi Mahi served with your choice of sauces. Well known for its signature dish Bang Bang Shrimp.
It would be a terrible oversight to omit sushi from the seafood round-up. Best bet: Sushi Zen in Mill Creek. A strip-mall sensation that has a line to the door on any given dinner rush was also the Best Sushi Winner from KING 5’s Evening Magazine and serves signature dishes like Crouching Tuna Hidden Shrimp and toro and sea urchin in the shell. The newest kid on the block is Katana Sushi in Everett. Led by Seattle chef and restaurateur Jay Zeng, he skipped the city and moved to Lake Stevens to bring daily prepared and locally sourced products to the North End. Order the tuna, crab, seaweed, and spicy tuna packed Deadliest Catch roll if you’re at all skeptical.
Eat at the Source
Drawn by the proximity to Willapa Bay oysters, Columbia River salmon, Dungeness crab, razor clams and appetite enhancing fresh sea air, the Long Beach Peninsula is stacked with casual coastal restaurants like Castaway’s Seafood Grille and Dooger’s: Long Beach.
One local treasure, the salt-slicked seaside hut called OleBob’s Seafood Market and Galley Cafe, takes the term “fresh sheet” to a whole new level by only using a whiteboard menu for quick catch updates. OleBob’s Deep Fried Fish and Chips and legendary crabcakes are sinfully yummy, but the straight-forward Dungeness Crab Plate a whole crab served with melted garlic butter) comes ready for deconstruction. Jimella and Nanci’s Market Cafe in Klipsan Beach serves up the freshest ingredients with the help of one local fisherman — simply called “Gary.” He has been selecting their fish for over 25 years.
Much closer to home and overlooking the shores of Penn Cove, Whidbey Island’s quaint town of Coupeville has its famous mussels, oysters and clams mastered. Restaurants like Oystercatchers and Christopher’s are known for their shellfish sorcery. The 105-year-old Captain Whidbey Inn marries classical culinary technique with the bounty from Penn Cove and produce from its own garden, to bring year-round regional cuisine to the plate.
From I-swear-it’s-still-wriggling sashimi to ocean fresh King salmon, we are not hurting for scrumptious seafood. Whether you prefer to slip into high heels for live Dungeness Crab served on white tablecloths or get knuckle deep in crab cracking at a mom-and-pop seafood stop, the selections for finding a superb sea-inspired menu nearby are, ahem, titanic.