Most of the weirs disappeared when the fish stopped showing up. Some came, sure, but by the turn of the century there weren’t nearly as many in the nets. Now the worry is about trawlers—bigger boats, bigger nets. The weirs are considered sustainable—one of the best fisheries around. And families are still getting the catch—the small, migratory species—still selling them come spring.
The ones I look forward to are the mackerel. Alex gets them in from Chatham—rich silver skins, oily fillets. He fries them whole and then makes preserves—hot fish in a vat of hot peppers and vinegar, a Provincetown recipe from a Portuguese friend. Other nights we eat them fresh, escabeche-style with olives and carrots.
The recipe I like is simple, and it depends on good, fresh fish. You warm up oil, fry shallots and carrots and thyme. Sniff the kitchen as the air warms up, then puree garlic and olives to make a tapenade. You add vinegar—red wine, lots—and fry the mackerel fillets hot. You sear them off until the skin’s brown and crisp, spoon the marinade on top, and dig in.
Elspeth Hay lives in Wellfleet.