SEASIDE, Ore – Nothing is better than walking into a fish market and finding the guy behind the counter has spent more than 50 years on a commercial fishing boat. We’re talking about nearly any weekend in the Buoy Fish Market in Seaside, Oregon, and retired commercial fisherman Jim Furnish.
“What is that,” you ask peering into the showcase? He can tell you.
“Where do those come from? What’s the difference between this one and that one? How do you cook them?” He can tell you.
But, it gets better. The fish market practically sits in the water where the fish came from and much of product is freshly processed, smoked and canned on the premises.
Behind the counter, the retired fisherman’s energy and enthusiasm for the job belies his age. One minute he is outside tidying up the parking lot, the next minute he’s bringing someone a taste of something new at the little eating bar by the window and then he’s popped back behind the counter helping and joking with a customer he hasn’t seen for a while.
“It is a zoo around here on the weekends,” Furnish says. “A lot of tourists but also a lot of regular customers who have shopped here for generations. It’s a fun place to be. We buy our fish right of the boats and our razor clams right off our beaches and you just can’t beat us for fresh.”
Bell Buoys of Seaside, which opened in 1946, is owned and operated by Terry and John Hartill. An old Seaside family that homesteaded in the nearby Fort Clatsop area, the brothers grew up in the fishing industry. John can talk easily about working his way through college doing it, working with fishing production in both Alaska and Russia and owning fisheries in Bandon, Oregon.
When you see the heaped trays of fresh fish and razor clams you know they were filleted in the back room. The smoked salmon and oysters and the tins of canned tuna in the display rack were smoked and canned in the basement. I took a peek in the back room and watched three women processing a fresh catch of the day and look forward to coming back to check out the big smokers and canning operation down below.
Furnish, who was born in Portland and raised in nearby Gearhart, digs razor clams commercially there.
“We’re the number one commercial wholesale seller of razor clams in the nation, and we dig them right here,” Furnish says. “Anyone can do it, you just need to check with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wild Life to see what the rules are and see when it is okay to harvest clams. We also have an online store where you can buy our product fresh, canned and gift boxed and a restaurant next to the market if you want it cooked for you. We just about have something for everybody.”
For more information about the rules and regulations for digging for razor clams, visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish/razorclams/index.asp. For more information about Blue Buoy of Seaside and their online store, visit http://bellbuoyofseaside.com