Experience westport's fresh catch!
By Anne Erickson | Photos and Video courtesy of Experience Westport
We all crave the coastline, some of us are content with sandy beaches and sunset views. But some of us want MORE and there’s no better way to completely satisfy that craving than finding and devouring seafood within view of where it was harvested. With its long history as a commercial fishing town and chartering hotspot, Westport has a bounty for anyone who wants to get their brine on.
If you prefer fishing a debit card out of your wallet to fishing on a boat, there are plenty of markets offering feasts hauled fresh from the sea. Westport's Fresh Catch brings the bounty of the sea to the docks for locals and visitors to enjoy.
Look for the big blue bivalve marking Brady’s Oysters on the right as you drive Highway 105 into Westport - stopping here and loading up on oysters and smoked salmon on the way to the coast is a time-honored tradition for a lot of folks. Brady’s has been growing oysters for four generations, using a suspended culture system that keeps them out of the mud and results in a cleaner tasting, firmer oyster. Brady’s also sells fresh fish, crab and shrimp in season as well as smoked salmon and smoked oysters and their housemade seafood dips.
Merino’s Seafood Market in the marina district always has something fresh and locally caught. My go-to method there is to buy whatever’s cheapest and prettiest when I drop in - on a recent camping trip that was pearly pink-fleshed snapper with orange skin. I said a few words of thanks to the fish that was probably swimming just hours before, then purchased enough to feed 3 people. It came in at under ten dollars and they even bagged it up with some ice for the trip back to Twin Harbors State Park. I dredged it in Krusteaz pancake mix because I was camping and that’s what I had. Then I sizzled it up on the Coleman camp stove in a pan with some butter, and my friends swore it was the best fish they had ever eaten.
Don’t feel like doing your own fish fry? You’re in luck; Merino’s just added Fish N’ Chips to their offerings. And they’re serious about the fish part of this equation - you can choose between Lingcod N’ Chips, Rockfish N’ Chips, Halibut N’ Chips, Salmon N’ Chips, even Albacore N’ Chips. All pulled fresh from the mighty Pacific, somewhere outside Westport’s breakwater. Merino’s also cans their own fish, and processes catches for local fishermen and charter customers.
Walking the docks is a must-do Westport activity. Make sure to stroll past Seafood Connection on Float 8 at the Westport Marina. This family owned seafood shop is housed on a barge, and it feels kinda salty to pick up a Dungeness crab or albacore tuna from a place that’s so close to the action on the docks that it bobs with the wake of boats coming and going. Time your visit for late July through October and score fresh albacore when they school through the region on warm currents from the south.
DIY seafood hunters can charter a fishing trip of course - but there are equally delicious options that don’t require a boat. Fresh crab can be had for the cost of a crab ring, some bait (ask the seafood places above if they can sell you some fish heads) and an annual shellfish license ($17.40 for adult residents, free for kids under 15, or even less if you purchase a one or two day license). Westport allows crabbing from their marina docks - try float 20, which is often boat-free and close to the marina entrance. This type of crabbing is perfect for kids, and a lot of fun for adults too.
Fish can also be found off the rock jetties that protect Westport’s harbors - the north side of Westhaven State Park’s jetty is a popular spot for rockfish, lingcod and sea perch. You’ll need a Discover Pass but there’s a kiosk in the parking lot that will happily sell you one.
The holy grail of do-it-yourself seafood foraging is the razor clam. Keep an eye on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website in late August when they announce dig dates. Hotels and campgrounds fill up with happy clammers on those dates once they are revealed. Buy or borrow a clam gun (easier) or a narrow-bladed razor clam shovel (old school and harder) and study up on how to find and capture these fast moving and delicious clams. But mainly, come for the party. Dig days on the coast are low key festive as crowds gather by the thousands on the beaches about 2 hours before low tide to hunt clams. Daylight digs are good for beginners, but nighttime digs are just plain magic: lantern glow reflected in the wet sand for miles, the moon shining above and humans engaged in the simple and satisfying act of pulling their own food from the sea.