Sa Caleta know their fish. They love their fish, and want to make sure stocks are preserved, the seas are kept clean and quotas are observed. They thought it would be good to give Nativ readers a seasonal guide to what fish to order when eating out. We agreed! With our handy guide, now you will know just what fish to put on your plate next time you’re ordering.
Winter is the golden age of squid, a traditional catch that is very popular among Ibiza’s natives. Squid are caught at sunrise or sunset using squid jigs. This is also the season for cuttlefish, caught using a trammel net or a fishing trap.
Squid, cuttlefish and curled picarel, a highly-prized fish in the island’s gastronomy. A fish broth isn’t a fish broth without picarel. Since time immemorial, the old folk on the island have had a saying: “Quan els almetllers treuen flors, se pot pescar el jarret” (“When the almond tree is in bloom, it’s curled picarel season”). This fish is caught using a special encircling net called a bolitx. It’s fascinating.
March marks the start of dentex season. Many species are starting to wake up after the cold winter months, including the Common dentex, which is caught using a longline or fishing trap or by trawling. Something exciting happens in the sea around us in early March. Hundreds of sea bass gather to mate, making it easier to catch them. Sometime in the middle of March, trawlers start catching octopus, an essential ingredient in the much-loved “frita de polp.”
These are the last few days to catch curled picarel using the bolitx. The picarel start to lose weight and become weaker, and other fish see this as a chance to feed on them. One of these predators is the flatfish, which becomes more active and voracious around this time of year. Red bream is another common catch at this time of year, as it too gets ready for the mating season. On April 1st, the ban on red lobster —a real Mediterranean delicacy— is lifted. Lobster season continues until August 31st.
This month, we’ll see large fishing boats coming over from the peninsula and elsewhere in Europe to catch the much-coveted bluefin tuna. This fish caught using an encircling net. In Ibiza, bluefin tuna are also caught using a fixed net called a solta (the almadraba’ser). Fishing quotas for bluefin tuna are restricted, and the bluefin tuna population has grown so much as a result that it has become a problem because tunas eat everything they find, offering stiff competition to traditional fishers. In the old days, when a giant tuna was caught, it was like a party; and, just like when a pig was sacrificed, every part of the fish is used. Also, red bream, flatfish, lobster, albacore.
In June, in addition to bluefin tuna, you can also catch albacore, another, smaller type of tuna that is captured by trolling. You’ll often see the traditional llauts drawing fishing lines in search of this blue fish. Also, red bream, flatfish, lobster, albacore, bluefin tuna.
Other, smaller blue fish invade our coasts, including horse mackerel, which the natives call surell, frigate mackerel, and little tunny. These species are used in Ibizan kitchens to stock up on marvelous escabeches.
This is the last month for lobster fishing, and octopus also begins to disappear. The water is very hot, and the fish are less active.
The lobster ban is imposed, and the ban on raor fish is lifted. This little red fish, eaten fried with scales and all, is a feast fit for the gods. The ban is also lifted on the young amberjack (September 15th), which can be caught using the trawling method throughout the month. Another typical September species is mahi-mahi, known locally as llampuga (because of the way it jumps out of the water during lightning and thunderstorms in the summer). In the local dialect, llamp means “lightning.” In late September, we’ll start seeing the popular red mullet at our markets and in our dishes.
This is the season for greater amberjack. Specimens weighing between 20 and 40 kilos are often caught from October to November. If you’re a fish lover, you must try greater amberjack belly roasted in a wood-burning oven. Incredible.
The typical winter species return. Ibiza’s natives begin to enjoy amazing sunsets at dinner time. Squid prepared a la bruta, with sobrasada, farcit (stuffed), fried, sauteed, in an onion stew, batter-fried. This month, a sea monster that spends most of the year living at depths of more than 200 meters emerges in shallower waters: the grouper, a type of sea bass. Some specimens can weigh up to 50 kilos.
It’s time to hang out with the family and slaughter pig. The greater amberjack is no longer to be found, but on calm days it’s easy to find flatfish, red bream, and squid.