"Navigating seafood shops" by Nicole Pilson Texas A&M AgriLife Matagorda County

   Hello Matagorda County! Hope everyone is doing alright and has their costumes picked out for Halloween (even if you’re just doing virtual Trick-o-Treating… if that’s a thing)!  
   Have y’all been making some meals with local seafood for National Seafood Month? 
   I sure hope so!  
   I know I have had a seafood-based meal at least once a week this month and it’s been great. 
   It’s given me the opportunity to go to local seafood & bait shops that I haven’t gone into before and try out new recipes with the local products.  
   I have also learned quite a bit this month about buying seafood. 
   If you are unfamiliar with local fish shops and they seem a little overwhelming to you, it’s okay.  
   They can be a bit intimidating at first with their ice stands of whole fish, shrimp, and frozen products.  
   But these fishy shops are nothing to be afraid of, in fact the people behind the fish counter are very friendly and helpful. First time?  
   No problem. Ask your local fishmonger what’s in season, what they recommend, how to prepare your purchase, or how to buy what you’re looking for.  
   They are happy to assist you and ensure you are getting the very best.  
   If you are skilled at filleting, pick up a whole fish; if that’s not your thing, you can have the shop fillet the fish for you.  
   Typically, if you are buying a fresh fish (meaning whole-to-be-filleted) you will be charged per pound. The person behind the counter will break down the fish and weigh the fillets.  
   So if you have a specific weight you’re hoping for, be flexible because they don’t know how much the product will weigh until it’s processed. 
   If you’re set on the weight you need and have a day to thaw it out, check their freezers. 
   Seafood shops will have fish fillets in vacuum-sealed bags with the weight and price already listed. This takes the guesswork out of filleting a whole fish.  
   Shrimp is sold by the pound (live bait shrimp is sold in pints and quarts) and depending on where you go, depends on if the shrimp are headed or not.  
   The shop’s freezers hold other goodies, too.  
   You can find tubs of crabmeat (sold as jumbo, lump, or finger meat) that came from down the road.  
   You can even find oysters and if they’re in season, you can buy fresh oysters (make sure you have a shucking knife!).  
   A lot of places around here will sell crawfish, too, during the season and you can pick those by the sack. 
   Our local seafood shops and bait stands are filled with local products, which is fantastic because not only does it guarantee the freshness of the products but it also means supporting local fishermen.  
   All of these folks work hard to provide our community and other Texas communities (and sometimes even beyond that!) with the very best seafood.  
   They also know the importance of sustainability.  
   If the resources aren’t protected or are overfished, then that means a loss of jobs and habitats. 
   Our commercial and recreational fishermen make a concerted effort to make sure their gear is up-to-date, they stay current on fishing regulations, and work to find innovative ways that not only help their business, but help the environment.  
   So next time you’re craving a meal of the surf, head to one of our many local seafood shops.  
   You are sure to pick up some excellent quality product, maybe learn something new, and even be tempted to try something new!

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