In New England, when people hear dogfish, one of the first things to come to mind is Dogfish Head Craft Brews, in fact it is the first thing to pop up on Google search. While we all know Dogfish Head makes a fine 60 Minute IPA, what about the actual dogfish that are hunting our more valuable fish in packs just a short distance offshore here in New Hampshire?
What’s a dogfish you might ask? Dogfish, less commonly known as Cape Sharks, are a type of shark in the family Squalidae. They hunt in packs near the bottom of the water column, feeding on other fish and crustaceans, similarly to the way a pack of dogs would hunt, hence the name. Have no fear; these are not the type of sharks most commonly known for taking a bite of human leg from time to time. They are a smaller, more docile type of shark, growing from 2 to 5 feet, with a small set of flattened teeth, the spiny dogfish being the most abundant species, followed by the smooth dogfish.
Currently in the waters, just off the coast of New Hampshire it is dogfish season, and fishermen are catching them in the thousands by means of sink gillnets or otter trawls. Though for many they are not a desirable catch, it is inevitable this time of year because they have all migrated to the Gulf of Maine for the summer. Fishermen typically despise the dogfish for their acquired taste for cod, haddock and other more valuable types of fish. Unfortunately however, there is no market here in the United States for these tasty sharks, so they are all being sent elsewhere. Notice, when you walk the streets of Portsmouth, NH there are no chalkboard specials lining the street suggesting dogfish or anything of the sort. Instead of keeping our own local catch within the Seacoast, these dogfish are being shipped in great numbers across the pond where the British use them on a daily basis for fish and chips, and the Germans for a delicacy known as smoked belly flaps. BUT WHY?! If the British love them so much, why don’t we?
This week, I challenge you to buy a dogfish to serve up for you and your friends. I know I’m going to. Make some Dogfish Head beer battered fish and chips, or grill them like your would a swordfish steak. Don’t be afraid when the market owner looks at you in a strange manner when you ask for their fresh dogfish, for I’m sure they’re not used to such requests. And good news: they’re much cheaper than most other of the over-utilized fish. So you know what you’re getting yourself into, dogfish are described as a sweet and mild white meat, somewhat firm in texture, with a slightly higher percent of fat than your standard white fish. More great news: because dogfish are a type of shark they have a cartilaginous skeleton, which means no bones for you, the chef, to pick through. And did you know dogfish is just as great a source of omega-3 fatty acids as say salmon, tuna, or mackerel?
Feel free to share your own dogfish experiences below, and any recipes you may come across. Eat dogfish. Who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised.