Category Archives: North Carolina Fisheries

Sturgeon & Bacon Appetizer

north carolina fisheries | sturgeon

Sturgeon appetizer. Photo by Vanda Lewis

Sturgeon & bacon appetizer. Photo by Vanda Lewis

  • 8 ounces sturgeon
  • extra virgin olive oil or butter
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • 8 strips red bell pepper, julienned
  • 4 chive leaves

Sauté sturgeon in heated extra virgin olive oil or butter until fillets are opaque and cooked through. Cook bacon at 350 F until browned. Grill asparagus.

For each serving, wrap 2 ounces sautéed fish, one asparagus spear and two julienned red bell pepper strips with ½ strip of cooked bacon. Garnish with one chive leaf. Serves 4.

Recipe by Chef Tim Coyne of Bistro by the Sea, Morehead City, N.C.


Coming Soon to a Restaurant Near You: Farmed Sturgeon

North Carolina Fisheries: Sturgeon

Cultured Russian sturgeon. Photo by Vanda Lewis

Historically, sturgeon was considered among the finest seafood available along the East Coast of the United States. The fish was prized for its firm texture and delicate flavor.

However, the population of domestic sturgeon collapsed in the early 20th century and has never recovered. The Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, which are indigenous to North Carolina, remain on the endangered species list.

As a result, most American consumers are unfamiliar with this species, particularly as a source of nutritious protein.

Today, sturgeon are considered a valuable commercial species because of the high price of its roe, better known as caviar.

Currently two North Carolina businesses – Marshallberg Farm of Smyrna and Atlantic Caviar & Sturgeon of Lenoir – are culturing Russian sturgeon, Acipenser gueldenstadtii. These fish produce Ossetra caviar, considered second in quality behind the famed Beluga.

These farms use indoor recirculating aquaculture systems. The Russian sturgeon are raised indoors to prevent them from escaping into the wild. The recirculating systems capture effluent from the tanks and repurpose it for agricultural use.


Cultured Russian sturgeon. Photo by Marshallberg Farm

Originally business success for cultured Russian sturgeon depended solely on the production of caviar, a luxury product for which there is worldwide demand. However, Atlantic now has high-quality sturgeon meat available for sale. It is a source of nutritious, flavorful protein.

A market for fresh sturgeon has not existed in the U.S. for more than 100 years. As a result, consumers are unfamiliar with the superior quality of sturgeon meat, which is similar to grouper and swordfish – both popular and in short supply.

In 2013, North Carolina Sea Grant researchers collaborated Tim Coyne, executive chef at Bistro By The Sea in Morehead City, to develop a variety of culinary preparations using cultured sturgeon as the prime ingredient. In a series of tastings, some of the chef’s actual customers were invited to decide the cooking methods and flavor profiles they preferred most.

Chef. Photo by E-Ching Lee

Chef Tim Coyne, of Bistro By The Sea, prepares a sturgeon for a tasting panel. Photo by E-Ching Lee

In upcoming posts, we will share with you the sturgeon preparations that were popular with our consumer panelists. We also will provide an overview of the species and information on its nutritional value.

Barry Nash and John Burke

John Burke worked as a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Laboratory in Beaufort, N.C., where he cultured commercially important fishes and conducted early life history and stock enhancement investigations. Though retired, his fascination for fishes hasn’t faltered. A resident of Marshallberg, N.C., he spends time culturing koi carp, and catching, consuming and creating watercolor paintings of local fishes.

Chefs Tent Featured at NC Seafood Festival

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E-Ching Lee, 919/515-9098,

Posted Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011.  See the related event posting.

Plan to attend the Cooking with the Chefs event, Oct. 1-2, as part of the North Carolina Seafood Festival in Morehead City. North Carolina Sea Grant is a cosponsor of this event.

Chefs from the North Carolina coast will demonstrate recipes using local seafood. These chefs represent the four local seafood branding programs — Carteret CatchBrunswick CatchOcracoke Fresh and Outer Banks Catch. Also, featured this year are the 42nd Street Oyster Bar of Raleigh; Watts Grocery of Durham; and Sheri Castle, a UNC Press food writer.

Other organizations will have booths in the tent, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, FishWatch and NOAA in the Carolinas.

Overall, the N.C. Seafood Festival opens on Friday, Sept. 30, and runs through Oct. 2, with seafood, crafts, music and more.


North Carolina Sea Grant: Your link to research and resources for a healthier coast

New Community Supported Fisheries Resource


There’s a new development in the Community Supported Fisheries arena. The website links CSF programs across North America and provides resources to communities that want to start their own.

For background on the CSF concept, read North Carolina Sea Grant’s Winter 2010 Coastwatch story that documents initial research and pilots in North Carolina and the early community programs in Northeast states. A year and a half later, lists — and links to — 62 programs (and growing) in North America.

The organization’s steering committee has several partners that have worked with Sea Grant on CSF programs, including Joshua Stoll and Lisa Campbell.

Stoll is a current National Sea Grant College Program Knauss Fellow from North Carolina and co-founder of Walking Fish CSF.

Campbell is a Duke researcher. North Carolina Sea Grant funded her study of Down East Carteret County that provided the groundwork for the ongoing www.SaltwaterConnections.o​rg economic development efforts in the state.

Her research was covered in a Holiday 2010 Coastwatch article. Stoll was one of the graduate students who worked with Campbell.

This new website is separate from the Local Catch: North Carolina Seafood Availability cards. To find Sea Grant’s seasonal availability cards, visit: and search for “local catch.”

Time to Clam Up

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Available year-round, the native hard clam, or quahog, has always been a coastal favorite. Its scientific name, Mercenaria mercenaria, comes from the Latin word for “wages.” Native Americans once used quahog shells to make beads that were used as wampum, or money.

Today clams may be bought in the shell or shucked. Those in the shell should be heavy and tightly closed, or should close when tapped lightly. They should have a pleasant, briny odor. Discard any with open or broken shells.

Clam meat is translucent. Its color ranges from ivory to golden brown. The liquid should be clear or slightly opaque.

Markets classify hard clams by size. The smallest, under 2 inches, is called the littleneck, after Little Neck Bay on Long Island, where they were once plentiful. Cherrystones are 2 to 3 inches and are named after Cherrystone Creek in Virginia. Topnecks are 3 to 3 ½ inches. Any quahog larger than 3 ½ inches is called a chowder clam.

The smaller clams, littlenecks and small cherrystones, are firm but tender with a mild flavor. They can be steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, used in clambakes or other cooked dishes, or on the half-shell. Large clams are less tender, so it’s best to chop them for chowders, fritters or stuffed clams. In addition to their great taste and versatility, clams are low in calories, fat and cholesterol.

If you enjoy steamed clams, oysters and mussels, you may want to buy a shellfish steamer. It’s a large two-section pot (much like a double boiler). The bottom part holds water. The top part is much bigger, usually more than twice the height of the bottom pot. It has holes in the bottom that allow steam to rise and surround the shellfish. You can buy an inexpensive, enamel one at specialty shops, large general merchandise stores and many hardware stores.

Many of you will buy your clams already shucked. For recipes calling for cooking clams in the shell, you can buy imitation shells at many specialty or kitchen stores. You can also use individual ramekins, dividing the clams into serving portions, but the effect is not the same. If you do this, increase the cooking time as necessary.

Remember to cook clams only until tender. Overcooking toughens them. Also, watch the amount of salt you add to clam dishes. Many clams taste salty naturally, and any additional salt will be too much.

Adapted from Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

The Biology of Bluefish

North Carolina Fisheries


Credit: Duane Raver

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Bluefish are characterized by a blue-green back with silvery sides and belly, a pointed snout and sharp, compressed teeth. They are found along the U.S. Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida. Bluefish are aggressive predators and feed on squid and fish, especially menhaden.

Bluefish can live as long as 12 years, reach up to 39 inches in length and weigh as much as 21 pounds. They migrate seasonally according to changes in water temperature. During winter, large bluefish tend to remain in the mid-Atlantic region and then move south to North Carolina around March. Small bluefish will move farther south during winter. As water temperatures rise, they will migrate northward.

Bluefish are important to both recreational and commercial fishermen. Approximately 60 percent of bluefish are caught with hook and line, which has relatively low bycatch rates. This species is managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. In the Atlantic Ocean, bluefish populations are high and overfishing is not occurring.

For more information on bluefish, go to:

Contributed by Barry Nash

Carolina Mud Bugs (Freshwater Crayfish)

North Carolina Fisheries

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Crayfish are eaten worldwide. Like other edible crustaceans, only a small portion of the crayfish is edible.

In most prepared dishes, such as soups, bisques and étouffées, only the tail portion is served. At crayfish boils or other meals where the entire body of the crayfish is presented, other portions may be eaten.

Claws of larger boiled specimens are often pulled apart to access the meat inside. Another favorite is to suck the head of the crayfish, as seasoning and flavor can collect in the fat of the boiled interior.

A common myth is that a crayfish with a straight tail died before it was boiled and is not safe to eat. In reality, crayfish that died before boiling can have curled tails as well as straight, as can those that were alive, and may very well be fine to eat.

Boiled crayfish which died before boiling are safe to eat if they were kept chilled before boiling and were not dead for a long time. A good way to determine safety in crayfish meat is whether it is mushy, usually an indication that it should be avoided.

Over 90% of the domestic crayfish production occurs in southern Louisiana and the Florida panhandle. In 2009, North Carolina had four active crayfish growers with 30 acres in production. Total harvest (tail meat) was 10,200 pounds with a farm gate value of $35,700 or $3.50 per pound.

Contributed by David Green