Dock Report: Yellowtail Flounder



Captain Mike Decker_Captain Paul 'Chef' FarnhamCaptain Mike Decker, photo by Captain Paul ‘Chef’ Farnham.


Friend of Edible Sean Barrett is still going strong with Dock to Dish, delivering fish to New York City restaurants within 24 hours of its landing on the dock. Here’s his latest missive accompany his latest shipment. On the menu? Yellowtail flounder. 

“Harvested in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, yellowtail flounder’s sweet taste and firm texture is said to set the standard to which other flounders are compared.”

This opinion and image were both provided courtesy of the NOAA FishWatch Program


As summer melds into fall the changes are obvious on land; autumn colors return to the trees and school buses idling on the roadways reappear. But seasonal changes on the ocean are less noticeable and involve gradual water temperature adjustments and a shifting labyrinth of currents. These transformations are felt more than seen.

To stay in synch with the changes, our local fishermen remain vigilant to the subtleties in their environment that they can see, like the quiet migration patterns of certain seabirds, or hear, like the ping-and-tap background noises of a fleet swapping out their gear-types from inshore (summer) to offshore (winter).

The captains and mates also begin to keep a very close and careful eye on any weather system leaving the West Coast of Africa — or approaching the eastern Caribbean — that shows even the slightest characteristic of developing into a tropical storm or hurricane.

Autumn on the ocean off of Montauk typically becomes tumultuous.

Today on the dock, however, we are being treated to some simply spectacular late-September weather as we pack up your weekly share from a bountiful haul of a delicious seasonal species, yellowtail flounder, which we will be delivering to you on schedule tomorrow morning.

This is yet another local fish stock that has recently regained sustainable status and begun to flourish throughout the mid-Atlantic after many years of arduous regulations.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “This stock was declared rebuilt in 2012 and is now 29 percent above the target level. In the 1990s, yellowtail flounder stocks collapsed after years of heavy fishing by foreign and domestic fleets. Today, all stocks of yellowtail flounder are actively managed under rebuilding plans. Under these plans, fishermen are following a number of strict measures to reduce harvests of yellowtail flounder.” This has allowed the southern New England and mid-Atlantic stocks to recover beyond expectations and arrive at their currently impressive biomass levels.

Yellowtail flounder are able to change their pigmentation to match their background, in a manner similar to a chameleon. This is an amazing evolutionary advantage for an ambush predator who lies and waits for prey.

Know your fisherman

Captain Mike Decker Jr. identified and reserved the “best of the best” of his haul exclusively for the members of the Dock to Dish cooperative this week, as all of our alliance fishermen do. “The other eighty percent of my haul is about to get shipped and disappear into the dark market at Hunts Point,” he growled as he stepped off his family’s boat, F/V Virginia and Victoria, “and then sold to twenty different middlemen over the next ten or fourteen days before it finds its way to a plate somewhere.”

“Yeah, my wife says that that chef Bill Telepan fella always puts up good pictures of his dishes on Twitter and Instagram, she will be psyched if he posts pictures of our fish. We haven’t been able to track where our fish was going to end up before Dock to Dish, except for when my mom sold it at the farmers market in town.

Grandpop Mike Decker and Grandma Eileen Decker are known throughout Montauk and many surrounding towns for having the freshest, local and seasonal seafood around, which they are happy to share with neighbors and friends.

Their expert babysitting services, however, are reserved exclusively for the three young children of their son Captain Mike Decker Jr. and his wife Jennifer.