In search of inspiration: The Fishmonger
Hooked on wild caught fish from the Straits of Mackinac at the local farmer’s markets
By Emma Palova
Ada, MI- It all started with a conversation, a few coolers and a canopy. And a brand-new enterprise was born 10 years ago.
But it took six generations of commercial fishermen, a passion for the great outdoors “Grizzly Adams” style and healthy eating to make the old trade work in new times.
Dan Sodini of DMS is the fishmonger, while his brother-in-law Jamie Massey is the fisherman of the Great Lakes based in St. Ignace.
“An opportunity to begin a small family business of taking wild caught fish from the U.P. to Farmer’s Markets around the state of Michigan came 10 years ago,” said Sodini. “We are celebrating our 10th year anniversary.”
The first market was in Midland, home to the DMS fish crew.
“We could drive to the U.P., stay with the family and get up and go to the market on Saturday morning,” Sodini said.
Rarely, do you see fish peddled at the local Farmer’s Markets. It’s mostly local home-grown produce spruced up sometimes with cheeses, breads and preserves.
“Some people were delighted and bought fish,” said Sodini. “Others took a little time.”
But after Sodini explained where, when and how the fish was caught, it all became easier.
“Once people tried it, they became customers and they’re still buying fish today,” he said.
Speaking about being hooked on genuine wild-caught fish taste.
I discovered the U.P. fish booth three years ago based on a word-of-mouth tip from a friend who lives in Ada.
“You know, there’s this fishmonger at the Ada Market and the fish is excellent,” she said. “Try it.”
Being a fish lover ever since I can remember buying trout at the “Rybena” deli in former Czechoslovakia, I didn’t need to be persuaded.
What first struck me unlike buying fresh fish at the stores, was that there was no fish smell around the booth. Everything was immaculately clean, and then Dan’s impeccable knowledge about the fish, surpassed the fish markets of Marseille.
The first time I bought all three “catch of the day”- fresh walleye, whitefish and trout, smoked whitefish and whitefish dip. It was an unsurpassed feast.
This is my favorite recipe: whitefish or trout baked with pesto and lemon. Bake for 20 minute at 350 F or on the grill.
In the beginning, DMS offered only fresh fillets which included: whitefish, walleye, lake trout, king salmon, yellow perch and smelt.
Over the 10 years, DMS has expanded both the fish selection and the farmer’s market locations.
“Once we realized that we could make a go of it, we expanded into other markets,” Sodini said.
DMS added smoked whitefish, lake trout, salmon and Laker bites, which are skinless, boneless bite size pieces of small lake trout.
“We have added our very popular smoked fish pate made with the fisherman’s recipe,” he said.
The pates include: smoked whitefish, salmon and lake trout. Brand new this year are the Laker patties, a fish burger or fish cake made with fresh lake trout, that can be grilled or sautéed in a skillet.
From August through mid- October, DMS has annual wild king salmon sales of the whole fish which averages 10 to 12 pounds. This yields approximately half to ¾ of the fish.
“With COVID we have experienced both a decrease and an increase in sales,” said Sodini.
The decrease mainly because of people not wanting to come out and take safety precautions while the increase is in direct access to wild caught fish vs. the limited high-priced beef and other meat products.
“From the beginning people chose fish for high quality protein,” Sodini said.
Backed by 150 years of Massey commercial fishing on the Great Lakes, Sodini, a former treatment specialist, found himself in the fish business. During his unemployment, the family had this important conversation about starting a fish distribution business.
“We are honored and proud to be a part of the family legacy,” he said. “We appreciate and are thankful for all of our customers from all over the state of Michigan, who are our friends and have supported us for 10 years.”
“I love what I do! Having the opportunity to offer wild caught fresh and smoked Great Lakes fish at local Farmers Markets is a privilege and a lot of work,” Mega said. But what I enjoy most is meeting each new customer and the friends that we have made over the 10 years we have been going to markets.”
On a Saturday market, DMS sells an average of 150 to 200 pounds of fish.
“The kids grew up on farmer’s markets,” he said. “They get paid and they love it.”
Today, the DMS crew does 12 markets a week:
Ada market on Tuesdays
Brighton on Saturday
East Lansing on Sunday
Flint on Saturdays
Frankenmuth on Wednesday
Holland on Wed.& Sat.
Meridian on Saturdays
Midland on Wed. & Sat.
Mt. Clemens on Sat.
Mt. Pleasant on Thursday
Northville on Thursday
The selling season is from May to October. From November through April, DMS does winter fish drops at the farmer’s markets locations.
“People can order frozen fish products biweekly or monthly,” Sodini said. “We deliver to each of the farmer’s markets location. The fisherman vacuum packs, blast freezes all of our fish fillets.”
You can find individual farmer’s locations at the DMS Facebook page at:
Next in the series “In search of Inspiration”- Springrove Variety, a piece of Americana gone from the US landscape
Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.