Capt. Clay S. Brand, Clay Brand Jr. and Reed Brand.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Christine Davis
Captain Clay and Sons Fish Market at 308 NE Fourth St., Delray Beach is, as the name suggests, a real family deal.
Clay Brand, with his wife, Susan, started the business in 2006; son Reed, 20, started managing the store out of high school three years ago; eldest son Clay, 25, has just received his master’s degree in international affairs, but you’ll find him behind the counter while he’s job hunting. And Zack, 12, a student at Odyssey Middle School, often hangs around the store.
They are a true family of fishmongers, says Reed, who is the easiest Brand to find because he’s often minding the store (since Clay Sr. is out fishing).
“My father has been a commercial spear fisherman and fisherman for 40 years,” Reed says. “He used to supply local fish markets and all the other local fishermen are his friends. He always had the idea of having his own market and now he and his friends supply his market.”
Says Clay Sr., 56: “I have been fishing since I was out of diapers, but I didn’t grow up in the fishing environment. I just enjoyed it. As a 3-year-old, I caught goldfish from a family friend’s pond with a clothespin, piece of thread and a bamboo stick.”
Clay’s fishing style has changed a bit over the years.
“One of the ways I get cobia, we jump into the water when sharks are around. The cobias follow the sharks. The sharks go past us and we spear the cobia, send it up to the top and a guy picks it up. If the sharks get too active, we get out of the water.
“Maybe I’m getting a little too old to get cobias that way.”
Cobia, of course, is not the only fish you’ll find at Captain Clay’s. “We get fresh local fish in every day. It’s always a little different, depending on what’s being caught,” Reed says.
“This summer, we’ll have grouper, snapper, cobia, jacks, wild gulf pink shrimp, dolphin and swordfish.”
And there’s a huge variety of snapper, by the way. “There’s mangrove snapper, mutton snapper, hog snapper, yellow tail snapper, cubera snapper, yellow eye snapper, vermillion snapper.”
The Brands also import Portland, Maine, dry-packed scallops, golden corvina, wild Canadian king salmon, Chilean sea bass and sushi-grade tuna.
While fish aren’t quite seasonal, there are times when they are more plentiful. “We get most of these fish in the winter, too,” Reed says. “Wahoo starts more in the fall, and after Jan. 1, we get golden tilefish.
“Florida lobster season opens up Aug. 6, and my dad solely catches our whole supply,” he adds.
“What a lot of people don’t know when it comes to mildness and quality of fish, it has nothing to do with species and everything to do about when it came out of the water,” Reed says. “Even if you’re a good cook, if the fish is bad, it will taste bad.”
Now, back to Clay. Here are some more interesting fish facts:
“Tilefish is a member of the grouper family and so is triple tail or leaf fish. They are delicious.
“Hogfish is not part of the snapper family. It’s part of the wrasse family, and it’s delicious, light and tender, a phenomenal fish.”
Clay also runs a charter business. “I enjoy going out with people, showing them how to rig the baits, handle the lines, how far out to put it, how the bait swims.
“Sometimes, they have me go out with them over and over. They catch more when I’m with them.”
Now one last word from Clay about swimming with sharks: “If its fins are flat out to the side when it’s swimming along, it’s not dangerous. But if it’s showing aggression, its back arches, the side fins point downward, and it has a jerky kind of motion. You’ll have to shoot the shark.
“But I don’t want to shoot the shark. I can’t sell it. Why kill a beautiful big animal like that if you don’t have to? I’d rather get out of the water.”