A guide to the main catches of the East Yorkshire Coast.
The main activity of the East Yorkshire fishing fleet is shellfish but some fish is still landed along the coast by net and line. Below are the most commonly caught species and some pointers as to why they're sought after by professional chefs and home cooks alike. A full seasonal guide as to what to look out for at what time of year is available in the 'A Taste of the Sea' section of this website.
Edible Crab (aka Brown Crab)
Easily identified by it's large size and browny-orange shell, the edible crab is probably the creature most people picture when they think of crustaceans. Sustainability of stocks is made relatively easy by egg-bearing females burying themselves in the ocean bed plus fishing is usually by potting which means young crabs or other creatures caught accidentally can usually be returned to the sea with high survival rates.
It's not been named the 'edible crab' without reason - this creature has long been caught for its soft meat which makes up about a third of its weight.
A shimmering blue-black-purple colour when caught, you may think of lobsters as being brick red but this is the colour their shell turns when cooked. Choosing to live singly in amongst rocks and in crevices, Lobsters are caught in pots which generally ensures only the larger specimens are fished with smaller creatures returned to the sea. Long associated with fine dining, Lobsters continue to be highly sought after, especially cold water lobster such as those caught around Britain which are considered to have a much sweeter taste than those that live in warmer waters - the majority of the local catch is exported to mainland Europe but East Yorkshire fishermen would like to develop a local customer base too.
Langoustine (aka scampi)
Also sold as Dublin Bay Prawns, Langoustine are more commonly eaten deep-fried in batter and breadcrumbs as scampi although prawns or mixed ground fish cooked in the same way sometimes masquerade under this name too. With the appearance of a small slim lobster (to which they are related), Langoustine burrow on the seabed and on the Yorkshire Coast are usually caught in pots along with lobster and crab.
Cod, Ling & Pollack
For many people, Cod is the fish in fish and chips. For years Atlantic Cod was one of the main catches for the East Yorkshire coast but trawlers no longer operate from its harbours. However some Cod is still caught by nets and lines along this stretch of coast.
Cod move in large shoals and are apex predators meaning they don't have any natural predators themselves. It is thought that the overfishing of cod in the 20th Century has led to the increase in crustacean population in the Atlantic Ocean as these formed part of the fish's diet.
Ling is Cod's larger cousin and has very similar taste and consistency. Pollack too is a large fish related to Cod and is meaty enough to often be used as a substitute for Haddock. Both fish are pretty much interchangeable in any recipe that uses Cod.
Whiting is a fish whose popularity is on the rise. Because traditionally they have largely been ignored and more often than not landed as a by-catch from larger fish such as Cod or Haddock, stocks of whiting are not currently under threat. As a result it is now becoming a popular and modestly priced fish now more regularly seen in fishmongers. Whiting hunt for food on the seabed in large loose shoals feeding in shallow water at night and so are popular with line anglers having an unsuccessful day with larger fish. They are most commonly found and fished in the autumn and winter months.
'Dover' Sole & Lemon Sole
Dover Sole isn't just caught in Dover, and Lemon Sole doesn't taste of lemon and isn't actually Sole, it's Flounder and related to Plaice rather then Sole. Sole are usually caught by gill nets - these nets are used by both small and larger boats and can be weighted to target different fish depending on their usual habitat (flatfish move along the sea bed). The size of the mesh is monitored by fisheries management agencies to minimise catching of non-target species.
Another flatfish favoured by professional chefs, Plaice is often the choice of fish for those wanting a 'lighter' meal. Equally good treated simply or deep-fried in batter you'll sometimes spot Plaice as a special in a good local chippy as well as on pub and restaurant menus.
Largely a summer catch on the East Yorkshire Coast, Seabass often take reefs and wrecks as their habitat and there's plenty submerged ships off this coast to play host to this silver-skinned native. They like rough weather as it exposes food and anglers will often catch them from harbours where they come to feed on the smaller fish scavenging for food.
This flatfish can grow up to 100cm in size and is usually caught by trawling being considered a prize catch due to it's commercial value. One of the more expensive fish to buy on the high street, it would be a good story if this is due to the fish's ability to camouflage itself on the seabed but the real reason is that most Turbot goes straight to restaurants.
Skate & Ray
The two names are generally used as interchangeable but as fishing of Common Skate is now prohibited by EU law due to vulnerability of the species, if you see 'Skate wings' or any other cut for sale it is probably one of the many Ray varieties that visit our shores. Rays don't have bones but instead have a skeleton made of cartilage like sharks.
Sea Trout & Salmon
Trout and Salmon belong to the same family and can live in fresh or sea water. As a general rule Salmon usually migrate inland once in their life to spawn whereas Trout spawn several times in their life although they too usually return to fresh water for this. They're caught by both net and line off the Yorkshire Coast, their flavour being richer than river dwelling Trout due to their diet of crustaceans.