How do I buy fresh seafood from the fishing boats?


Buying seafood directly from commercial fishing vessels is a great way to get fresh seafood. Oregon Sea Grant has several videos that provide helpful overviews:

Oregon Sea Grant provides educational tours open to the public in the summer for people to learn more about Oregon’s commercial fisheries and local seafood. During 2024, we will be piloting Discover Oregon Seafood tours in Garibaldi, Coos Bay, Port Orford and Brookings. You can also join the popular Shop at the Dock tours each summer (usually late July and August) in Newport. Watch for dates to be announced in early June. Oregon Sea Grant also has a few publications that might be helpful:

What 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 to sell their products directly to consumers or a wholesale buyers permit if they transport product away from their vessel for sale. 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:

  • Look for the handmade or printed signs that vessels post around the port.
  • 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.
  • Once you establish a relationship with a vessel, you can call ahead and arrange a pre-order for whole fish that works with the vessel’s fishing schedule and for you.

Fishing schedules can be unpredictable, and vary depending on the weather, fishing conditions, the distance that vessels need to travel 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. You can check The Fleet is In on the Oregon Albacore Commission website to get contact information for those who sell directly to consumers.

In the Columbia River Gorge

If you are traveling to the Columbia River Gorge, there are options to purchase seafood directly from tribal fishers at several locations on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the river. The Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission has great information and resources about how to access ‘over the bank’ seafood, provides updates about availability, and salmon buying tips.

On the coast

If you are traveling to the coast, it’s worth considering 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. Oregon Sea Grant has resources on its Eat Oregon Seafood page, including a seafood locator map and recipes.

There is a lot of seasonal variation in what seafood is available. Most vessels that market 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. You can learn more about Oregon fisheries, and how different species are harvested by checking out our Discover West Coast Seafood video series.

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