How do I find out when and how to buy fish and crabs from the boats as they come in?
Buying seafood directly from commercial fishing vessels is a great way to get fresh seafood. Oregon Sea Grant created a short video with an overview of the process of buying directly from fishermen a few years ago.
Oregon Sea Grant has also hosted "Shop at the Dock" tours. In Newport, these tours have served to teach people the process of buying directly from fishermen. In Garibaldi and Warrenton, the Shop at the Dock tours (including by video in 2020 - see related resources below) have focused on teaching people what seafood can be sourced locally and a few different ways to find it, including going to local seafood retail markets.
There a few things to keep in mind about buying directly from fishermen:
- You can only buy seafood from commercial fishing vessels. It is illegal for recreational fishermen or charter vessels to sell fish.
- Not all commercial vessels sell their catch directly to consumers. Most vessels have relationships with seafood processors or other seafood wholesale buyers, and market all of their catch that way. Fishing vessels need a special license called a limited sellers permit in order to sell their products directly to consumers. You can request a list of vessels that have this permit from ODFW, but it is probably easier to just look for signs around the port or ask at the port office.
- To find out who is selling directly to consumers, it is easiest to look for the handmade signs that vessels post around the Port. In Newport, many of these can be found near the entrance to Port Dock 5, and there are a couple vessels that tie up in South Beach, near the Rogue Brewery. Most of these signs will have F/V (which stands for fishing vessel) and then a vessel name and often a phone number, which you can use to find out when that vessel will be in port and selling product.
- Fishing schedules can be unpredictable, and vary depending on the weather, fishing conditions, the distance that vessels need to travel in order to catch fish, etc. Unfortunately, there is no clearinghouse for information on when vessels will arrive in port - so it takes a little extra work on the part of the consumer to watch for locally posted signs.
- If you are traveling to the coast, its worth thinking about sourcing your seafood from a local seafood market. Many small seafood markets have very good relationships with local fishermen, and you can reliably source fresh, locally caught seafood from them just as well as working directly with the vessel.
- There is a lot of seasonal variation in what seafood is available. Most vessels marketing directly to consumers focus their effort in the summer months when most visitors come to the Oregon Coast. In the summer, the most common species available include: Albacore tuna, Chinook Salmon, and Dungeness crab.
Oregon Sea Grant has a few publications that might be helpful. I have included them here: