A (fishy) gem hidden in plain sight

A worker in the warehouse out back holding a local “bug” (top)

Guest perspective/Capt. Mike Martel and Capt. Don Ringwood

A few years ago, on our way home on a Sunday morning from an annual Christmas party in New Hampshire, my wife Denise and I decided to take the “scenic route” home to Rhode Island, down Route 1A through the Hamptons, along the coast. We’d lived, for a spell, in Newburyport, Mass, and thought it might be fun to pass through some of our old haunts.

As soon as we crossed the bridge from Hampton, N.H., into Seabrook, I spied a sign by the roadside advertising scallops and lobsters. The sign said “Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative.” A colorful flag indicated that the place was open. “There’s no better place to get fresh fish than a fisherman’s market,” I commented to Denise, and, being in a bit of a fishy mood myself, I drove in, past the stacked lobster pots. As we pulled up on that cold December morning, a fishing boat was at the slipway beside the market unloading its catch. “Jackpot,” I murmured.

I’m a big fan of seafood, ultra-fresh seafood, plain and simple, no frills, the kind that people who work the sea favor. The drive along the coast had whetted my appetite, and when I went inside, I found I’d entered my own version of a candy store, Heaven, or perhaps an amalgam of both.

We went there again this year, on the same Sunday morning a year later, and the little store was now larger and carrying a wide variety of fresh catch at wonderfully reasonable prices. And there I met Capt. Don Ringwood, behind the counter. I started taking photos, and after some discussion (and the purchase of some fine scallops and oysters), he offered to write something up about the Co-op. And so he did.

“Yankee Fish [the retail space Mike visited] is an offshoot of the Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative, a group of local fishermen that in 1990 formed an alliance to establish a home port to land their catches, restock and fuel their boats, and ship their product off to wholesalers in Boston and other surrounding cities,” Capt. Don wrote. “The retail market was first opened in 2012 as a way to bring fresh fish and lobsters directly from our fishermen to the public. At first there was just a small showcase with fillets, scallops and lobster meat, and a live tank for lobsters and crabs. Over the years, after assessing just what the public desired, we have expanded our product line and services to the point where we have become a truly full-service market specializing in custom orders to not only our local clientele, but as far south as Florida and to the Midwest.”

The store’s goal is to provide a diverse product line and excellent customer service. The staff handles thousands of summer visitors each year. They are well trained in product knowledge and packing techniques, which helps ensure that seafood purchases arrive home safely and still fresh. Products range from fish fillets and shellfish, to crabs and lobsters and whatever the fresh “catch of the day” might be.

“Although the storefront is small, about 12’ by 26’, we’ve learned how to utilize our space efficiently,” Capt. Don continued. “Inside are the main fish case, a live lobster tank, a display freezer, clam bar and dry- goods shelves. Keep in mind that this is only the front. Out back we have a big warehouse containing thousands of pounds of fish and lobster. The display case is stocked daily with a mix of local and regional fish, scallops, shrimp, crab, and lobster. On a typical day you can find cod, haddock, pollock, halibut, sword, flounder, shrimp, king crab, stuffed clams, smoked haddock, and squid. The clam bar offers an assortment of top-quality oysters, mussels and both hard-shell and steamer clams. Our frozen food section has a variety of shrimp, fish, and seafood ravioli, for example. Dry goods include batter coatings, different flours, seasonings, cocktail and tartar sauces, lemons and limes, and many other things to complete your dinner plans.”

One of the best services the co-op offers is onsite cooking of purchased lobsters. “This is a big hit with the cabin and motel people because they can enjoy fresh-cooked seafood without having to go through the trouble and mess of setting up propane cookers or trying to boil water at their rental lodging,” Capt. Don said. “A simple call ahead to place an order and all they have to do is pick up their ready-to-eat lobsters, steamers, or crab just in time for dinner or that big beach party. While a typical cooked order usually consists of a half-dozen or so lobsters, we have the capacity to cook up to 50 for those larger parties.”

Yankee Fish also offers to pack orders to travel. “We usually suggest that you bring your own coolers and we’ll pack them with the product and ice or gel packs. Or, if a cooler isn’t available, we carry a supply of insulated travel boxes in different sizes to meet your needs. We’re open year-round to cater to those special holidays such as Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day.”

The Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative fish market is located on Seabrook Harbor off Route 1A just south of the Hampton Harbor Bridge. FMI: (603) 474-9850, yankeecoop@myfairpoint.net or www.yankeefish.com.

Capt. Mike Martel holds a 100-ton master’s license and delivers power and sail vessels when he’s not working on his own boat, the Alden-designed 1930 Maine-built gaff yawl Privateer. Capt. Don Ringwood runs the retail market at the Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative.