We dropped by Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf to speak with Steveston spot prawn fisherman Frank Keitsch about life as a fisher and to learn about this highly coveted seafood.
Spot prawn season is officially here and it is an increasingly popular event for seafood lovers. In fact, thousands of people descend upon Richmond to visit Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf during the five-week period, from the middle of May through June, to buy directly from fishers.
Fisherman Frank talks about spot prawns on his boat at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf in Richmond. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
Meet Steveston’s Spot Prawn ‘Fisherman Frank’ Keitsch
The hard dangerous life of a fisher is never easy. As a professional fisherman, Frank Keitsch has spent 40 years depending on the mercy of the ever-changing marine environment of the ocean, when he leaves the safety of the Steveston Harbour to trap spot prawns in the deep waters off Vancouver Island.
Frank testifies, “Fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world and where we go, it can get pretty nasty. We leave here every morning at daybreak. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We have to cross the open ocean to get to the fishing grounds. And that is part of the fun, I guess. It’s part of the story.”
He and his brother are fortunate to have boats that can handle the weather and the speed, but Frank does not know how much longer he can handle the toll it takes his body.
More than 30 years ago, Frank’s father was one of the first fishermen to start selling his catch directly to the public in Steveston. ‘The first few trips he did,” Frank remembers, “he had a hard time making enough to pay for his fuel. Nobody knew what a spot prawn was, but he built up a clientele over the next year or so. When he would come in, there’d be hundreds of people waiting for him on the docks.” Frank’s father retired from fishing in 1999.
Watch the video to learn more about spot prawns from fisherman Frank Keitsch
Why are spot prawns so special?
Chefs from around the world covet these large west coast shrimp for their firm lobster-like texture and delicate flavour.
This species, is the largest of the seven varieties found on the west coast. Look for the noticeable white spots on its tail, their reddish brown colour and distinct markings on the carapace of red and white bars.
Freshly caught spot prawns at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf on Fisherman Frank’s boat. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
Where are spot prawns caught?
These special prawns live in the Pacific coastal waters from San Diego up through Alaska. They are also found in the waters off Japan and Korea.
Steveston Spot Prawn Fishing
Over the first 25 years, 90 per cent of B.C.’s spot prawns were exported overseas as a frozen product. Frank notes, “Most people in the Lower Mainland didn’t even know what a spot prawn was, but we are in the process of changing all that. We’ve seen how many people have embraced the prawn.”
About 15 years ago Frank, a few other fishers and some chefs got together to start promoting spot prawns locally. They went down to False Creek and Granville Island to start educating the public about spot prawns. They invested a lot of time and effort in working with the Chef’s Table society and other fishers. Being consistent paid off for the group, turning the spot prawns season into a thriving venture.
“About seven years ago,” Frank says, “one of our local fishermen, Justin Taylor took it upon himself to try again here (Steveston).”
Jaime Gusto, general manager of Steveston Harbour Authority, Canada’s largest fishing harbour and the hub for Steveston commercial fishing industry, says, “We are a nonprofit, so every single dollar we make at the harbour goes back into improving services for fishermen.”
“One of the tools we give our fishers is a place to sell their catch directly to the public,” she continued. “The fisher gets a higher price and the consumer gets a lower price. Plus, there’s the added bonus of interaction with the fisher who catches your next meal.”
Steveston Spot Prawn ‘Fisherman Frank’ Keitsch on his fishing boat named, Comeback, docked at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
There is always lots of activity at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf on sunny days in Richmond. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
What time of year do you catch spot prawns?
From May to June, these delicious prawns are in peak season. Support Steveston fishers by buying direct from their boats to experience the freshest, tastiest locally caught seafood.
Place orders online for pickup to avoid disappointment. Be prepared to pay cash for your purchase on the dock. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some spot prawns, they are quick and easy to prepare.
Once you have had fresh, there’s no substitute. Eat the prawns raw, as fishers do, for that clean ocean taste; grill, steam, boil; or try one of these chef-created recipes. When cooked, the large shrimp turns an orangey-pink colour.
Where to buy the best B.C. spot prawns. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
How much are spot prawns?
The market price of fresh spot prawns for the 2023 season is $24-$25 a pound. The price fluctuates depending on the demand and rising costs involved of getting this fresh seafood from the ocean to your table.
Richmond Restaurants Support Steveston Fishers
This year Richmond’s 2nd Annual Steveston Spot Prawn and Seafood Celebration revs up with 12 participating Dine About restaurants June 1-18, 2023.
Sign up for the digital passport here to receive $2 off the dish ordered when you’re at the restaurant.
Find out more about Steveston Spot Prawn and Seafood Festival and Culinary Stage.
Chef Narain of Steveston Seafood House shows off her ceviche. Photo Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
Buy Direct from Steveston Wharf in Richmond
Buy direct from the fisherman on the Steveston Harbour Fishermen’s Wharf in Richmond, but remember, it’s best to order online before you go. Bring a cooler with ice and a large plastic bag if you have one.
On the dock, look for Fisherman Frank’ s boat Comeback, the Kershaw and Takasaki families’ fishing boat with the Prawns on the Spot sign. The Kershaw and Takasaki families have carried on the fishing tradition for five generations.
Justin Taylor’s fishing vessel, Just Travlin comes in daily to sell their spot prawn catch. Pre-orders start a week before the season opens on May 15. Check out their Facebook or Instagram page for real time updates. Just Travlin is one of the few boats that take cash or card payments. Starting around the middle of June, this boat also sells fresh Dungeness crab on Saturdays at the daily market rate.
Spot prawns for sale at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf in Richmond. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
Fast Facts About Spot Prawn Season
- Steveston is Canada’s largest commercial fishing harbour.
- Spot prawn season usually starts the middle of May and runs for approximately five weeks.
- Fuel costs $1,000 for one day of spot prawn fishing.
- They are called spot prawns because of their unique feature of four white spots.
- Spot prawns are part of the shrimp family, but they are carnivores. Shrimp feed on plants.
- Spot prawn meat is thicker and has a more lobster-like texture than shrimp.
- Spot prawns are caught 500-700-feet-deep in ocean waters with traps.
Support Local Steveston Businesses
Take your time and spend the day in the picturesque fishing village of Steveston. Browse through the many boutiques and thrift shops.
Visit the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site to learn about the history of Canada’s West Coast fishing industry and see the new exhibit, “Fish Tales.”
Stroll along the waterfront and enjoy the scenic views along the mighty Fraser River from one of the many restaurant patios.
Travel writer Sandra Thomas enjoys the views from the Blue Canoe Waterfront restaurant at Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf. She is wearing a red polka dot bangle, a purchase she made at a Steveston thrift shop, which happened to match her purse. Photo: Wendy Nordvik-Carr©
How to get to Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf
Depending on where you start your journey and the time of day, the drive to Steveston in Richmond from Vancouver can be a quick 30 minute drive or take up to one hour.
Once there, free parking is available for up to three hours.
Consider staying a little longer in Richmond, book accommodation by using Booking.Com and any commissions earned will help keep this website running.
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