SIMPLY DELICIOUS: What to do with whelk
Jamie Eldredge has been fishing out of Chatham since 1984. Like most fisherman he started out working on other boats, and eventually bought his own 25-foot boat, the Miss Jillian, in 1990 to go hook fishing for cod. He had to go further and further offshore to find the cod, so he bought the 42-foot fishing vessel Yellow Bird. About six years ago the low numbers of cod caused him to switch to fishing for New England conch or the channeled whelk. Whelk is becoming an increasingly important fishery for local fishermen because they are abundant and command a good price in the Asian markets.
“The biggest thing is the price of the conch has gone up so much,” Jamie says. “That’s why there has been so much interest to it. Nobody even cared about this fishery until the price got so high on them. When I started about six years ago they were about $1.05. Now we sell them for $2.50 a pound. But the price of horseshoe crabs has gone up every year too.”
Fishing for whelk is similar to fishing for lobster. You catch them in pots that are 20 by 20 inches in diameter and ten inches high. They are similar to a lobster pot in that they have a net that prevents the whelk from leaving the pot once they crawl inside. Jamie uses horseshoe crabs as bait.