Smithsonian Institution
Search
Festival Blog
Free Festival App
Festival Radio
Join Our Email Mailing List
Smithsonian Folkways Magazine
Support the Festival

Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Water Ways: Mid-Atlantic Maritime Communities

Fish Markets

The Maine Avenue Wharf
Washington, D.C.

The Fish Market is located off Maine Avenue on the Washington Channel, a waterway of the Potomac River. Fish-selling stalls are housed on floating barges tied to a pier. Six companies sell fresh seafood, steamed crabs, and some prepared foods such as chowder and fish sandwiches.

Every morning of the week, beginning about 6 a.m., fish-market workers set up their wares on stainless steel tables in several layers of cracked ice. Sellers display fish attractively to lure customers. Many workers are from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia and work in two-week shifts, staying in floating apartments the companies maintain on site.

The most famous and sought-after item at the Fish Market is the "Chesapeake Bay blue crab." Due to smaller catches in the Chesapeake, blue crabs nowadays often come from the Delaware Bay, from North Carolina, or as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.

Fish Markets in the Mid-Atlantic Region

The freshest fish in the Mid-Atlantic maritime region is sold from fish trucks, roadside stands, family-owned storefronts and "fish houses," and much larger urban markets. Fishermen used to deliver their catch to such large markets as the Fulton Fish Market in New York City, Baltimore's Inner Harbor, or the Maine Avenue Wharf in Washington, D.C. by boat, but now most fish are delivered by truck. Now that many maritime communities have become populated by seasonal tourists, vacationers and retirees who eat more fresh fish, and there are less commercial fishermen who often have smaller catches, there is a trend back to selling the catch locally instead of shipping it to the larger markets. You can find fish from all over the country, as well as sometimes from all over the world, at the larger markets.

< previous  |  next >