It’s October and it feels great outside. Time to fire up the grill and enjoy football with your favorite local seafood. So what’s in peak season this month?
Clams – cultured Cedar Key clams are always in season and can be purchased at some local markets.
Oysters – they like the cooler months, there are a lot of ways to prepare them but we recommend cooking them
White Shrimp – other varieties of shrimp are not in peak season at this time but still available
Spiny Lobster – the Florida (Spiny) lobster is still in peak season but more available in south Florida
Stone Crab – we are JUST entering peak season for these guys, but like lobster – they are more common in south Florida.
Flounder – a local favorite this time of year – we are in peak of peak season – enjoy.
Mullet – This is a local favorite with those along the Florida panhandle.
Snapper – these are in peak season year round, but harvesting regulations reduce their abundance at the markets – so you will need to check.
Yellowfin Tuna – these have been in peak season for most of the summer; we are on the down side of it.
SPECIES OF THE MONTH…. MULLET
This is one of those – “either you love them or you hate them” fish. It is not news that these are not a popular food fish in much of the Gulf region. In some locations that have an oily/muddy taste that does not appeal to many. In those areas the fish is still abundant but is used as bait. They are an oily fish and are preferred fried or smoked when fresh. Mullet that sit too long develop a strong fishy taste. Mullet roe has its fans… and its enemies. Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) – did not care for them. They were very popular in the Orient for a period of time, and the local mullet population suffered for it, but that fad has waned.
We actually have 3 species found in the northern Gulf. There are two that frequent the estuaries – the white and the striped mullet. As the name implies, striped mullet does have body stripes as adults. They grow a little larger than the whites and are the one of choice for eating. At times though, the stripes on the striped mullet are hard to see. What then?… well – the white mullet has 9 soft rays on their anal fin, the striped have 8… have fun counting those. Another way is to look at the operculum (the bony plate covering the gills). On FRESH mullet, the white will have a gold spot here that is missing on the striped. The iris of the white mullet has a gold stripe that runs vertically… on the striped mullet the entire iris is gold.
Both species are what we call euryhaline – meaning that can tolerate a wide range of salinities. Striped mullet have been found several hundred miles inland and in Baffin Bay TX (where the salinities can reach 70 ppt). The white mullet prefer saltier habitats and do not frequent the upper estuaries and rivers. White mullet gather and spawn in the spring, striped mullet spawn in the fall – both spawn offshore on the continental shelf.
If you have not tried fried mullet, or smoked mullet dip, give a chance and see what you think. As always – enjoy our local seafood.