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The blackfish reached its greatest abundance in the marshy, overflow areas, like Tulare Lake. It has been introduced into southern California. Like the carp, it spawns in shallows and is a prolific egg producer. A 17-inch female contained an estimated 350,000 eggs. The growth rate is rapid. In Clear Lake, blackfish range from 2.5 to 6.5 inches in length at the end of their first growing season. It feeds on plankton and bottom materials. The blackfish is of minor commercial importance, with over 100,000 pounds harvested in 1962: Fish are trucked alive to fish markets in Oriental districts, where the buyers select fish and carry them home alive. The young of this species are eaten by game fishes.
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I love fish markets. I stop by fish markets here at home in San Francisco, many times just to look. I go to fish markets on vacation (in fact, they are sometimes the reason I go on vacation). They provide an opportunity to learn about both local culinary traditions and natural history. Some of my earliest memories are of visiting Oakland Chinatown, where there were always tanks and tanks of live fish. In those days, almost 40 years ago, the predominant fish were Sacramento blackfish (Orthodon microlepidotus). Blackfish, like carp a member of the minnow family, are something of a rarity, a native California freshwater fish. Also called hardhead, steelhead, soong yue, and shad, blackfish is not a hardhead (a related minnow that apparently was also marketed), a steelhead (an ocean-going rainbow trout), or a shad (an ocean-going herring originally from the East Coast). A small commercial fishery supplying the Asian live-fish trade existed at Clear Lake and San Luis Reservoir. Growing up, I was only able to persuade my parents to buy a live one once; my mom steamed the fillets, and they were soft, tender, full of small bones, but with a good flavor. Free 2-day shipping on qualified orders over $35
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