Wicked ahi: Markets ready to meet demand for New Year’s favorite

TOM CALLIS/Tribune-Herald Fish cutter Sittru Bossy prepares ahi fillets on Friday at Suisan's market on Lihiwai Street in Hilo.

It’s all hands on deck at Suisan Fish Market as the annual ahi rush gets underway ahead of New Year’s Eve.

“Going into the weekend, everybody works,” said Michael Dewey, Suisan’s fish market division manager in Hilo. “We bring in people from the corporate office to help with platters.”

As of Friday, he said enough ahi were still biting in the waters around Hawaii Island to meet demand as residents prepare to gather with friends and family to ring in the new year with bellies full of fresh fish. Most caught are between 30 and 60 pounds.

“It’s not as busy this week as it was last week, the week before when we took in 23,000 to 25,000 pounds in 2.5 days,” Dewey said. “But it’s nice and steady; it’s keeping our supply up so that we don’t have to source fish anywhere.”

On the retail side, fillets were selling for $20 a pound, while chunks were on sale for $5.99 to $7.99 per pound. Prices change daily. He said the market doesn’t sell frozen or previously frozen fish.

Suisan’s market on Lihiwai Street is usually closed on Sundays, but Dewey said it will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. New Year’s Eve.

“We start at 3 o’clock in the morning, and we start cutting right away,” he said.

Seafood sections at retailers, such as KTA and Sack N Save, also are stepping it up for the holiday.

“This is basically the busiest time of year for us in the seafood department,” said John Thompson, a fish cutter at the Puainako Center Sack N Save, adding that it’s like their “Super Bowl.”

On Friday, prices ranged from $8.29 or $8.99 per pound for chunks, to $19.99 per pound for fresh blocks.

Nearby, the Puainako KTA was selling ahi chunks for $13.99 per pound and ahi block for $21.99 per pound.

Newell Nham, a KTA meat wrapper, said prices are a little down from last year. He said many pre-order their ahi or party trays in advance.

“If they want orders, they want platters now, it’s on a first come, first serve basis,” he said. “The earlier the better.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.