The Fish of the Spring, “Sakura-masu” returns to fresh water during the cherry blossom season
“Sakura-masu,” or cherry salmon, is said to have earned the name due to its peak fishing season coinciding with the cherry blossom season. Another reason is that mature Sakura-masu bear pink cherry color scales. Its meat has a superb refined taste with an excellent fat content.
The Sakura-masu of Aomori Prefecture
The Sakura-masu catch in Aomori amounts to approximately 200 to 300 tons (according to the Fisheries Agency, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency). Beginning in February, the fishing season along the coast of Aomori reaches its peak in March, and concludes around May. Pole fishing dominates the first half of the season, while fixed shore nets are mainly used on the latter half of the season.
The Sakura-masu caught in the Northern oceans are especially luscious as the ocean is enriched by the fresh melted snow water. Those weighing over 2 kilograms are notably fattier with rich and delectable taste.
The Finest Fish, “Sakura-masu”
During its sea lifecycle, Sakura-masu is high in fat with a high market value. Among the various salmon varieties that return to Japan for spawning (chum salmon, pink salmon, and cherry salmon), the Sakura-masu, or cherry salmon, is considered to be the most delicious.
As one of the finest fish in the market, it is mostly sold for fresh consumption. It is commonly prepared as grilled fish or meunière. For raw consumption such as sashimi, it is recommended to first freeze the fish (for over 24 hours under -18 degrees).
The quality of the Sakura-masu after it is thawed solely depends on the conditions prior to freezing. Ideally the fish is frozen while still alive, having been soaked in ice water to drain blood. This keeps the meat firm and the color a perfect salmon pink.
New products using Sakura-masu are under development as the Sakura-masu of the Tsugaru Strait are highly sought after. The exquisite sweetness and refined flavor are something for all to enjoy.
Masu (Sea Trout)
Fisheries Agency, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency (Japanese)