Friday, February 03, 2012

Purchasing Live Yellow Perch and Wild Crappie

For most of us, yellow perch and crappie are all about fishing. Even so, especially with yellow perch, timing and luck are of the essence. In Maryland, you can pretty much forget about either catching or purchasing yellow perch for all but a week or two at the end of February or the beginning of March; and even during that brief window, the protective restrictions on both recreational and commercial yellow perch fishing are stringent. In Baltimore, the only occasions where I've seen yellow perch for sale in recent years have been during late February and early March at Whole Foods Downtown and at the Northeast Market.

So you can imagine my surprise and elation upon finding them in mid-January swimming around live in a tank at Asia Market at 5100 Baltimore National Pike. This is the same place where I was able to score the duck tongues we wrote about at Unique Culinary Adventures last May. Asia Market has another name for its yellow perch, namely Ta Bong, although I should note that my search for such a species on the Internet ended up blank. A language barrier prevented me from obtaining specific information on how Asia Market was able to source such a delicasy, but I suspect it relates to some kind of tie with the Fulton Fish Market in New York. The price, $21.99, was as scary as it reads, especially when considering that prices at Asia Market on many more common items are lower than at more mainstream supermarkets. It's hard for me to imagine Baltimore's Asian community being into such a native local delicasy as yellow perch. Could Ta Bong be a different species? I purchased, cooked, and ate one, and was unable to either observe or taste any differentiation.

During spring, summer, and fall, live crappies are easier to catch in regional waters, but not this time of year. We found some at Baltimore's Northeast Market and covered the experience at Unique Culinary Adventures in March, 2008 . But finding crappies alive and swimming around in a tank at a local market? To the best of my knowledge, all crappies, just like bluegills, are wild, so how did they make it to this tank? Notwithstanding, $8.99 a pound could seem a hefty tag for such a common and locally ubiquitous (though rarely sold in markets) delicasy. But for those like me, who as recreational fishermen, have come to love them, they could be worth the splurge.