A fishmonger is a merchant who specializes in the sale and delivery of seafood including fish, crustaceans, and shellfish. In some parts of the world, the traditional fishmonger has largely been replaced by a grocery store, which combines produce, dry goods, liquor, meat, and other food products in a central location. This is especially true of inland regions, which do not support a large market for seafood. In port cities, however, a fishmonger can usually still be found, often close to the docks to ensure that the stock is fresh.
For people looking for high-quality fish, a fishmonger should be sought out. Fishmongers tend to be very knowledgeable about their stock, and can provide information about where the fish came from, who caught it, and how old it is. Many are also happy to share recipes, and can inform consumers on how best to handle and store different types of seafood. In many cases, fish from a fishmonger will be more fresh and safer to eat than fish from a grocery store, because the fishmonger is able to focus on keeping the fish iced down and clean.
There are a number of ways for a fishmonger to run his or her business. The most common is a retail business which sells fish from multiple sources. Usually one of the employees goes to the wholesale fish market at the docks in the morning to select the best looking fish right off the boat, or works with a distributor to stock the store every day. A fishmonger can also be a wholesaler, buying large stocks of fish from several boats to sell to retail clients like restaurants, hospitals, and schools. Many businesses have a contract with a fishmonger to deliver fresh fish daily, and some of these contracts are flexible, allowing the fishmonger to select the most cost effective and high quality product available.
When visiting a fishmonger, expect to find an assortment of fish in varying states of readiness for cooking. Many fishmongers stock whole, uncleaned fish, along with fillets or steaks from larger fish species. Some may precook crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs, and lobsters for easy use, while others sell live crustaceans from tanks. In addition to fresh fish products, many fishmongers also carry smoked and preserved fish as a sideline, with some traditional businesses making these products in the same building.
For consumers concerned about cleanliness and potential contamination, several things should be looked for in a facility handling fish, whether it be a single boat's dock side stand, a fishmonger's, or a grocery store. The fish should be kept under ice, rather than on top of it, so that as the ice melts, it washes the fish, rather than pooling. The fish should look fresh, and be free of obvious dryness, strange discharges, or separating flesh. The floor should be kept clean and frequently hosed, and while a fish-like smell may prevail, individual pieces of fish should be relatively odor-free. Forming a regular relationship with a fishmonger will usually guarantee you fish of the highest quality on a regular basis.