Halibut is a peculiar fish with a peculiar name. The word "halibut" comes from a combination of the words "haly" (meaning "holy") and "butt" (meaning "flat fish" ?) but the whole thing together is sort of begging for a middle school joke to be made. Combine that with a very odd smashy-face appearance and it seems to me that if it wasn't for its exceptional culinary qualities halibut would be the joke of the 7 Seas. Fortunately for halibut, it's delicious! Mild in flavor, firm in texture... it's a favorite of many a seafood fan.
Alaskan halibut are managed and the surplus harvested by means of IFQ grants. IFQ stands for "individual fishermen quotas" and what this means is that each fisherman has from March to November to catch their allotted amount of halibut. This is considerably different than the derby-style of fishing that was done prior to the implementation of IFQs in 1995. If you remember having fresh halibut available for only a few weeks out of the year at rock bottom pricing, it was likely prior to '95. These days there's no incentive for rushing to fill your IFQ and the good news about this is that there is fresh halibut safely harvested a full 9 months out of the year. The bad news is that the price stays steadily high as the supply never has a chance to outpace the demand.
In recent years the start to the season has been delayed for one reason or another, but this year they were pretty much right on time. Retail pricing for filets started out at $23.99 per pound but the price has come down considerably in the past few days and we're offering it on 'special' at $19.99 through Sunday. This is a bit lower than last year's pricing, which is likely a reflection of an increased overall quota (about 5%) for 2017. Halibut quotas and catch limits are determined by over 1,200 summer survey stations from Oregon to the Aleutians, and this is the first time in decades that not a single fishing region has faced a reduction in quota - heartening news for the health and sustainability of the halibut fishery!
Best wishes to the halibut fishermen in both Alaska and Washington State for a safe and plentiful season! These guys in the photo are fishing on the F/V Dream Maid out of Alaska, and it looks like they were catching a few! Read on for some ideas on how to cook them up...