Cooking School

Canada's local fish and seafood

By: Steve Biggs

Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

Canada's local fish and seafood

By: Steve Biggs

The smell of open water, a forest of boat masts, a web of mooring ropes, the silhouette of a bird on a pole, kaleidoscopic piles of netting, and the wail of sea birds all lead toward the destination: pails of crabs skittering atop one another; sacks of fresh mussels; glimmering, silvery-scaled fish; jellylike squid; and glistening orange, pink, and white fish fillets.

Fresh fish and seafood can be a sensory delight! Nourish your connection with local food by savouring locally caught fish and seafood -- and meeting the people involved in the harvest.

See food, try food
Seafood is edible saltwater fish and shellfish, while freshwater fishes come from inland lakes and rivers.

Not sure what to do once you have it? Get started with recipes and cooking information from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the federal government's Freshwater Fish Corporation.

Fish freshness check
How can you tell if fish is fresh? It smells, well, less fishy! Also look for:
• slightly bulging, bright eyes
• stiff fins
• firm, slightly springy flesh
• faintly slimy skin
• gills, when opened, are red or dark pink
• mild smell

From coast to coast
Eastern Canada

The catch on the East Coast includes well-known species such as:
• cod
• haddock
• herring
• mackerel
• tuna
• shellfish

Here are some ways to enjoy Canada's local fish and seafood:
Pick the best-looking lobster for supper at the Halls Harbour lobster pound in Nova Scotia, a facility that holds up to 65,000 pounds of lobster for shipment abroad and also prepares meals for those wanting to dine on site while taking in the smell of the sea, the scenic fishing village, and the amazing Fundy tides.

Immerse yourself in the history of the cod fishery at Lelièvre, Lelièvre et Lemoignan in the Gaspé Peninsula by learning how cod is caught, processed, then dried on traditional outdoor flakes. See wood smoke dancing up from the roof, then, once inside Le Fumoir D'Antan -- and engulfed in the smoky smell -- learn about the history of smoked herring in the Magdalen Islands.

Celebrate seafood at the P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival, taking in mussels, clams, and oysters; culinary demonstrations; a chowder competition; and help for first-time oyster tasters.

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Central Canada
The freshwater fishery on the Great Lakes brings in species such as:
• whitefish
• northern pike
• lake trout
• smelt
• yellow perch
• pickerel

Buy directly from the fishing family at Jackson's Fish Market in Port Stanley, Ont., offering perch, pickerel, whitefish, bass, and catfish.

If you're not an angler you might still land a cagey trout at Milford Bay Trout Farm near Bracebridge, Ont., where trout are raised in spring-fed ponds open to those wanting to fish, and where the specialty is smoked trout products.

Western Canada
The western inland fishery includes whitefish, pike, mullet, and pickerel, while in B.C. the seafood fishery is known for salmon, herring roe, and shellfish.

How about a vacation with a real fishing family? At the Solmundson Guest House on Lake Winnipeg the hosts serve fresh pickerel along with garden vegetables, set in an historic fishing village.

Another great way to get fresh seafood is at the wharf: In Comox, B.C., see real fishing boats and equipment, then buy seafood such as halibut, crab, salmon, prawns, and cod from the fishers.

Buy seafood directly from the farm at Fanny Bay Oysters, a farming operation that has a retail shop.

Dive into oyster lore at the Clayoquot Oyster Festival in Tofino, B.C., where you can hear marine biologists talk about oyster biology and legends, pair oysters with wine, and take an oyster farm tour by boat.

Sea you there
For details on fish species and where to find Canadian commercial fishing and fish farming operations, visit the Agriculture and Agri-food Canada website.

More to explore
6 sustainable seafood choices

Slow Cooker Seafood Chowder recipe

5 fish fillets recipes

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Cooking School

Canada's local fish and seafood