Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Report: California King Salmon Season Begins

Captain Ben Hyman and his team arrived this week with first-of-the-season California king salmon

KCRW Good Food Producer Gillian Ferguson shares highlights from farmers’ markets around Los Angeles along with tips from chefs and growers on how to best use what’s in your basket.

Local salmon is back at three L.A. farmers’ markets. Captain Ben Hyman (who brings us other seasonal goodies like Santa Barbara Spot Prawns) arrived at yesterday’s Santa Monica Market with coolers full of California Chinook, a.k.a. king salmon.

“They call them king salmon for a reason,” he says, a three-foot specimen dangling by the gill from his finger.

The average California king salmon weighs 10 to 15 pounds, and tight fishery regulation requires that fish must be over 27 inches or thrown back to sea. Plus, Hyman elaborates, “We catch them hook and line one at a time, that way any small fish or bycatch can be released.”

Hyman credits the ruby red flesh of the salmon at his Wild Local Seafood stall to a steady diet of anchovies, sardines, squid, and even small octopus. The result is an unctuous flesh high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Despite the drought, which dries up riverbeds and disrupts salmon spawning, there are an estimated 700,000 California king salmon swimming in the Pacific this year. This, according to Ben, is thanks to vigilant fishery management. The Pacific Fisheries Management Council sets the season from May 1 to the end of August, and within those three months, Ben will be on his boat The Always Grinding, hustling to bring in almost 100 salmon each day. Today he leaves for a nine-day trip, coming inland only twice to offload fresh product for market customers.

At the market you can find center cut fillets for $28 per pound and collar cuts for $12 per pound. All of his salmon are caught off the Channel Islands near Santa Barbara and come with Captain Ben’s promise: always sustainable, always fresh, and always wild.

Look for Captain Ben Hyman and Wild Local Seafood at the Wednesday Downtown Santa Monica, Saturday Pico, and Sunday Mar Vista Farmers’ Markets. His fish is also available via Good Eggs.