Fish from Scotland

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Iain R Spink with his Arbroath Smokies © James Fraser Photography
Arbroath Smokies

Iain R. Spink shows how he smokes on location in the traditional way.

  • Fish for sale at the Country Fair on Belmont Street, Aberdeen
    Fish for sale at the Country Fair on Belmont Street, Aberdeen
  • A family select some fish for their dinner at Macduff Farmers Market, Aberdeenshire
    A family select some fish for their dinner at Macduff Farmers Market, Aberdeenshire
  • Mackerel for sales at the Aberdeen Fish Market
    Mackerel for sales at the Aberdeen Fish Market
  • An angler with a wild salmon on the River Dee, Aberdeenshire
    An angler with a wild salmon on the River Dee, Aberdeenshire

Scotland is well-known for the quality of its wonderful fish. From the wild salmon and trout of the pristine rivers and lochs to national favourites such as haddock and herring caught in the waters around the coast, you can enjoy a fantastic range of freshly caught fish.

Freshwater fish

Salmon

Scotland is famous for the home of salmon fishing and rivers such as the Tay, Tweed, Dee, Spey, Helmsdale and Nith are a European stronghold for the species. The delicate pink flesh of the Atlantic salmon has been a prized culinary delicacy dating back to times as early as the reign of Robert the Bruce.

If you have ever wanted to catch your own you will find salmon fishing is available somewhere in Scotland from 15 January until 30 November although some rivers do not open until February while others close on 30 September.

The prevalence of fish farming, now a significant industry in the Highlands, Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland and Argyll & The Isles, means that the once-treasured salmon is widespread and relatively inexpensive. While Scottish farmed salmon was the first non-French product and the first fish to be honoured with the prestigious Label Rouge accolade from the French government, it is still worth keeping an eye out for the highly prized - and more expensive - wild salmon which is regarded as having more depth of flavour.

Trout

Trout is a freshwater relative of the salmon and there are three main breeds, the rainbow, brown and sea trout. While not a native species, the rainbow trout is the most popular breed for commercial fish farms and is easily recognised by its striking purple or violet colouring. Anglers are just as intent on catching the hard fighting native brown trout as their prize in Scotland's lochs and rivers while the saltwater variety, the sea trout, is also popular quarry.

Both salmon and trout are highly nutritious containing essential omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein, vitamins and minerals essential for our well-being. You can purchase fresh salmon and trout from most good supermarkets, farmers' markets and fishmongers while many restaurants serve delicious dishes prepared with the fish.

Coarse fish

While coarse fishing is widely available across the country, there is no tradition of eating pike, carp, perch or any other coarse fish by the people of Scotland. However, it is possible to pre-order coarse fish from a local fishmonger.

Saltwater fish

Cod

Cod can be found in almost any sea area around Scotland from the shoreline to depths in excess of 200 metres. Its moist, mild-tasting white meat can be prepared in many ways and it is commonly served in fish and chip shops.

The cod became one of the most sought-after fish during the 20th century, and it was its popularity that caused its enormous decline and precarious situation today. There are currently strict fishing quotas in place for catching cod in the north east Atlantic Ocean and North Sea.

Haddock

Haddock is extremely popular in Scotland, not least because haddock is a popular choice at the chip shop! Related to the cod family, it has a flaky texture and is extremely good for a healthy diet. In recent years the fish stock has been in decline.

The fish is extremely versatile and quite delicious when smoked. Popular smoked haddock dishes include the Arbroath Smokie, a hot-smoked haddock produced within 8km of Arbroath, and Finnan Haddie which is a brined and smoked haddock often served grilled with butter or poached in milk.

Whiting

Whiting is a small member of the cod family but is more economical and sustainable to buy than cod. They are widely distributed both inshore and offshore around the Scottish coast and throughout the North Sea.

Whiting has a firm white flesh with a delicate flavour and is best used very fresh. It is excellent for making homemade fishcakes and fish fingers.

Herring

Herring, also known as the ‘silver darling’, was once the staple fish in Scotland. Although its popularity has declined in recent years it is still one of the most widely caught fish in Scotland with a hefty 25,000 tonnes of herring landed per annum by Scottish fishermen.

This relatively inexpensive little fish boasts many health benefits and they are best eaten between late spring and autumn. Popular herring dishes in Scotland include herring rolled in oatmeal and pan-fried in butter, kippers - a cold smoked herring - and soused or roll mop herring which have been marinated in salt, vinegar and onion.

Mackerel

Mackerel is in plentiful supply and is one of the most important species to the whole of the Scottish fishing industry with annual catch of 145,000 tonnes. This firm-fleshed, oil-rich fish is easily recognisable from its torpedo-like shape and iridescent silver and blue striped skin.

As well as being sustainable, mackerel tastes great and is good for your health because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It is usually served pan-fried, grilled or smoked. It is also popular in patés and goes well with sharp fruits like rhubarb and gooseberries.

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