We are so fortunate to have fresh fish year-round here in Portland. And it’s easy to go local with the rivers and ocean within 100 miles. Seafood is such a big part of the Northwest lifestyle, especially here in PDX.
But what are the local seafood options here in the Pacific Northwest and where can you get it?
Seafood In the Pacific Northwest
Let’s first look at the main fish and shellfish available at your local farmer’s market, supermarket, or restaurant.
Spot Prawns are technically shrimp and are found beyond 500 feet offshore. So they do need to be commercially harvested. If you can find a local fisherman who catches them, you know know that spot prawns off of Oregon are the largest shrimp on the planet. They’ve found four shrimp to a pound before which was a world record.
Salmon is a superfood. It’s great grilled, baked, and poached. You get so many more health benefits by buying it locally. There are two main types of local salmon – Chinook and Sockeye.
The Chinook is the largest of the Pacific salmon and can grow to be three feet long weighing approximately 30 pounds. It’s rich in omega-3s and has a buttery flavor.
Sockeye is also known as red salmon or kokanee. Sockeye is an oilier fish with deep red flesh and very high in omega-3s. It stands up well to grilling. It’s smaller than the King Chinook only growing to around 2 feet and weighing around 15 pounds.
Trout is a delicious white fish that is mild in flavor. They are actually related to salmon and are classified as “oily” fish. But they don’t taste oily. They can be pan-fried or baked.
Steelhead trout is a type of rainbow trout that is born in freshwater and migrates to the ocean. They can grow up to 45 inches. Other types of local trout include Bull, Redband, and Westslope Cutthroat. You want to avoid Bull trout since it’s on the endangered species list.
Crabs & Clams
We’re so fortunate to get the best shellfish around. Crabs are great with butter or cocktail sauce or even mixed up and fried as a crab cake. Clams can be steamed, baked, grilled, fried, or cooked in a wine broth and served with crusty local sourdough.
This was considered a delicacy even by the First Nations who would regularly capture the crabs at low tide and enjoy them for dinner. There is a lot of meat in each large crab as 1/4 of the weight is the prized flesh. They are also on Seafood Watch’s sustainable seafood list as a “Good Alternative to overfished species.
Red Rock Crab
The red rock crab is related to the Dungeness crab but isn’t as popular due to its smaller size and less edible flesh. Those that do know that there’s a big prize as the meat has a delicate flavor and is sweeter than the Dungeness.
Razor clams are meaty and sweet-tasting. 95% of all razor clams are harvested from 18 miles of beach in Clatsop County all year except from July 15 through September 30. This gives the young clams time to grow.
Unlike regular clams, Razor clams do need to be cleaned and removed from the shell before cooking. Make sure you remove the brown bits which are like that “vein” going down the back of the shrimp. Some people believe in pounding the clam to tenderize it. Others believe it’s best just not to overcook it.
This is a generic term for pretty much everything that isn’t a razor clam. It includes the popular littleneck clam as well as cockles. You can go out to the ocean and go “clamming” with shovels. Myself? I’d rather pick up some that have been caught and cleaned from my local market. Then they’re great tossed with spaghetti or in a fresh chowder.
How to Choose Fish and Shellfish
Fish and shellfish should smell like the ocean in a good way. They should have a bright clean color. The flesh should be firm. A whole fish should have bright clear eyes. As it loses its freshness, the eyes become cloudy, so you’ll want to stay away from that.
If you have questions, ask the fishmonger. They can also provide tips for how best to prepare the seafood.
Freshest Fish In a Portland Restaurant
The difficulty in recommending a restaurant is that there are so many different types. You may prefer an oyster bar, or sushi, or a classic seafood grill. And do we dare mention the delight that is the fish taco?
So let’s just suggest that if you were in the mood for Spanish cooking, check out Bar Casa Vale. If you’d rather eat at a restaurant committed to serving only certified sustainable fish and shellfish, look for Southpark Seafood. And Jake’s Famous Crawfish has been a landmark since 1892.
Looking for a fantastic view? Check out Salty’s on the Columbia. They have a special weekend brunch with bloody marys and bottomless mimosas to go with their fresh salmon lox, crab, peel-and-eat prawns, paella, oysters, and more.
And all of the top-rated lists have Cabezon Restaurant on them. They pride themselves on focusing their menu on freshly caught Pacific Northwest fish and shellfish.
Freshest Fish To Buy In Portland
You can buy fish at the Portland Farmer’s Market which is open Monday through Friday. Also, Wilder Land & Sea usually only supplies restaurants. They have stealth retail at a weekly “warehouse sale.” You need to sign up on their email list to preorder the freshest fish right off the boat.
Other great places to go are:
Best Places To Fish Within An Hour Of Portland
Are you inspired to go fishing? Of course, there are many amazing fishing spots for your favorite trout, steelhead, and salmon, but did you know that you can also get more unusual fish like largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and bluegill? These are often stocked locally. You can find out more at Travel Portland and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.
And if you were looking for scallops on this list, you should know that they’re not sold live because they’re highly perishable. And that’s ok. Find some lovely large scallops and gently thaw them out. Grill them with some fresh asparagus, and you’ve got your feast for the evening.