Image courtesy of Maryland DNR flickr page
You know spring is coming when you see them on the side of the road. People swathed in coats and hats, fishing pole in hand, fixedly watching the tip of the rod for any dip or tickle. It’s still brown in the marshes, and there isn’t much to see yet- a straggling flock of Canada geese, an industrious muskrat, maybe an early osprey. But it isn’t what’s on top of the water that really matters, anyway, not for these scrappy roadside anglers. It’s the pulses of finned life, newly emerged from their wintertime channels, waiting just below the surface. And if you’re lucky, and the lure is just right, you just might snag one of these darters, these yellow perch, bound for cornmeal and egg and a hot, well-seasoned skillet.
Watermen are catching the perch too, at the last gasp of winter, to the very tentative beginnings of a perch-friendly local market. You see, we have so many exotic choices when it comes to the fish we eat. Our fish are veritable world travelers. They may have come from Chile, from Alaska, from Japan- all sorts of countries only the most intrepid of us will visit in a lifetime. On any given night, you can stroll into the grocery store and peruse the resources of far-flung lands as suits your whim- as long as you don’t mind your fish being less than fresh. We don’t often eat our local fish- even if a watershed teeming with life is only minutes away. It’s just not how our food system works these days.
But with the local food movement has come the revisiting of old ways of gathering, consuming, and preparing food- and for the watermen in the Chesapeake, there’s been a subsequent interest in also eating regional fishes. It’s a good thing for us as eaters, us as fishers, and us as a Chesapeake community. The more ‘non-traditional’ fish we eat, the more the whole market works to better ends for sustainable living and a healthy and flourishing estuary- where no one fish need meet the population-crippling demands of our hungry mouths.
To read more about this trend, and to find out more about how you can help the Bay with a choosy fork, check out this great article in the Washington Post: http://wapo.st/zVtelM