Seafood, like produce, has its seasons. Seafood seasonality — as well as the variety of seafood available — can differ greatly from the American West Coast to the East Coast and to the Gulf Coast.
Peak seasons are noted for the entire West Coast, although some regions may have shorter seasons. Although modern flash-freeze methods can make most of these fish available at high quality year-round, these seasons are noted if you are planning on buying fresh fish.
Vast Variety of West Coast Seafood
The variety of seafood that you can get along the West Coast of the U.S. is vast. The following list enumerates only a small cross-section of all the different fish you can find along America's Pacific coast.
- Abalone is available year-round. Only farmed abalone is available commercially. The season for diving for your own wild abalone is tightly regulated. You will need to find out from your state's department of fish and game for specifics, including the season, size limits, catch limits, and harvest areas. For example, in December 2017, California's Fish and Game Commission voted to close the 2018 red abalone recreational hunting season due to a huge die-off noted on the ocean floor by exploration divers.
- Albacore tuna is available June through August. Look for line-caught or pole-caught tuna and you'll end up with a sustainably caught tuna, as well as one naturally lower in mercury than other choices. Caught tuna tend to be juvenile and their shorter lifespan means less time to develop a heavy mercury load.
- Anchovies are available May through October.
- Clams are available year-round for farmers. Wild varieties are available from October through June. There are a wide variety of clams available on the West Coast including razor clams and geoducks. See state-specific fish regulations if you plan to harvest your own.
- Dungeness crab is available from November through February in the southern West Coast and June through August in the Pacific Northwest area. This highly and well-managed fishery spans the coast from just south of San Francisco up into Canada. The opening of Dungeness crab season coincides with Thanksgiving in the San Francisco Bay Area, where crab is a popular favorite on Thanksgiving tables.
- Halibut is available March through November.
- Mussels can be farmed year-round.
- Oregon pink shrimp are available from May through September.
- Oysters can be farmed year-round.
- Rainbow trout can be farmed year-round.
- Sablefish (also known as black cod or butterfish) is available from March through November.
- Salmon is available from May through September. High-quality frozen wild-caught salmon is available due to modern flash-freezing techniques, and it is the far superior choice to fresh farmed salmon for both flavor and sustainability.
- Sardines are in season all year, however, availability varies season to season as the population fluctuates. Catch rates are closely regulated.
- Spiny lobster is available from October through December.
- Spot prawns are available from February through December. These are tricky to find commercially in the contiguous United States since restaurants tend to buy up any local catch before they make it to market. Spot prawns are more widely available in British Columbia and Alaska.
- Squid is available from April through February.