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RED SNAPPER : Fish Masquerade : The real thing is found in the Atlantic Ocean. Rockfish is what’s sold here under the snappy name.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Red snapper is one fish that Southern Californians seem to like. It is plentiful year-round, relatively inexpensive and versatile enough to prepare in any number of dishes. And with the Pacific Ocean lapping at the county’s shore, local consumers are only a seafood outlet away from same-day locally caught fish.

The only problem is--they aren’t eating “Red Snapper.”

The only true red snapper caught in U.S. waters swims in the Atlantic Ocean, said Michael Wagner, owner of Seafood Specialties in Ventura.

“There never were any true red snapper on the West Coast,” he said. “The fish sold commercially under that name are really rockfish.”

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Wagner said sportfishermen have referred to a variety of rockfish that have been caught over the years as red snapper.

“There are 13 species of rockfish harvested on the West Coast that are referred to as ‘snapper,’ ” he said.

Purchased commercially--at restaurants, grocers or seafood outlets--the various rockfish are sold under the name ‘Pacific red snapper,’ Wagner said.

You needn’t worry about which variety of rockfish you are getting, Wagner said.

“All rockfish are in the same family and all have essentially the same taste,” he said. “The real difference between them is the firmness of the fillet.”

Fished virtually year-round, Pacific red snapper is affordably priced, reflecting its abundance. And Wagner said snapper prices will come down even more as summer approaches.

“The catch has been slow recently because of the wonderful storms we’ve had,” he said.

Beside its attractive retail price, Pacific red snapper is a popular seafood choice with cooks because it is versatile.

“Red snapper is like the hamburger of the fish business--you can do almost anything with it,” Wagner said.

Seafood Specialties is at 1785 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura. Call 653-0625.

In early summer, it appears, there will be a new source for fresh produce directly from the grower as Oxnard gets ready to open a new certified farmers market.

“We’re planning to open the first week in June,” Market Coordinator Rosemary Leigh said. A survey of farmers is being conducted to determine the day of choice for holding the weekly market, she said. “They’re leaning toward Tuesday or Thursday--most likely Thursdays.”

The time of day and the location have been decided, however.

“The market will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” Leigh said, “at the corner of 7th and B streets, kitty-corner to the Heritage Square.”

The market was the brainchild of the city’s redevelopment agency. “Our goal is to bring people back to Oxnard’s downtown area and let people discover there really is life down here,” she said. “It’s going to be a happy, healthy community event. We hope to have a market that will meet all ethnic needs produce-wise.”

The Oxnard Downtown Certified Farmers Market will be able to accommodate about 40 farmers. Besides Ventura, Leigh said, organizers hope to attract growers from Kern, Tulare and Los Angeles counties.

To ensure a well-rounded supply of produce throughout the year, Leigh said, “you have to go to farmers outside the county who are growing other things besides what’s in season here.”

Although city approval for the market won’t be voted on until March 26, Leigh doesn’t foresee any problems.

“We’re still compiling a list of farmers to participate,” she said, “and I’m taking applications to hire a market manager by the beginning of April.”

A logo contest is also being held. Students from Oxnard College and the city’s high schools can submit drawings up until April 11. “The winner, announced April 22, will receive a $200 savings bond,” Leigh said.

For more information about participating in the market, the market manager position or the logo contest, call Leigh at 984-4624.


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