Full Slate

I traveled to Valdez for my state job to visit the hatchery there Wed-Fri.  What an economic impact the hatchery has on the place.  Valdez is akin to the Kenai Peninsula for Anchoragites.  The boat harbor was full of primarily sport boats.  Halibut, coho and pink salmon are the primary harvest species, with most of the coho and pink due to the hatchery.  I think over 150 thousand coho are harvested by sport anglers there a year, making it among the largest coho sport fisheries in the state.

The primary force behind the hatchery remains there today, although he said he’s about to retire.  He started the place in 1980.  I asked him why he did it, and he said it dated back to the late 50’s listening as a boy to fishermen in the region talking about doing something to make more salmon at a time when salmon stocks were low.  He was born and raised in Valdez, and it’s always great to talk to someone like that in Alaska.  A real treasure trove of local knowledge and perspective in a state of largely from-somewhere-elsers.

The man’s son was also heavily involved in the hatchery.  As they had the fish culture aspects honed for the hatchery, he was working on enhancing the value of the return.  The hatchery association built a small processing facility for themselves and fishermen who wanted to sell their own catch, rather than sell all the catch to a processor.  In some instances, a local processor might not be buying an off-salmon-season species like shrimp, so the facility opened up new opportunity to keep business local.  The son also enlightened us to the fact that if the hatchery can earn more money from value-added processing of the hatchery’s cost-recovery catch, then they don’t have to harvest as many fish for cost recovery – leaving more to the commercial fleet- and can employ more people in adding value to their product.  We watched as they processed salmon roe into caviar with a skilled crew of 6 who knew what they were doing.

The family running the bed and breakfast we stayed at knew a friend of ours living in Juneau.  His daughter and theirs were friends in school when he lived there in the 1980’s.

I delivered fish to may salmon customers on Sat.  I was relieved to see I didn’t have to run the whale watching boat as they didn’t need a relief captain and I’d said I could work on Sat.  The fishing family I work for said they’d like me to deliver to move some fish, and I had 4 hours worth of deliverying as it turned out.

I took my friend Bob and his visiting nephew fishing for coho on Sat evening.  It was warm and nearly flat calm with a red evening sky.  We managed 2 bright fish and let the nephew catch both of them – I think his first fish ever.  A whale was working close by as well, so the nephew got the full monty.  I offered Bob both fish but he insisted I take one, so I filleted that with my new knife when I got home.  I also tried using a small airpump used for exercise balls to pressure bleed the fish.  It worked okay but not great.

Sunday I worked hazardous household wasted day.  What a b-buster.  I was again the TV consolidator, stacking tv’s and computer monitors in a 20′ van, which we filled almost by lunch, and then went to stacking some on pallets, which another guy who is alot better at doing that than I am did.

After that, I packed a box of fish to ship out, and grabbed 2 small totes of beautiful sockeye frames to vac pak for winter.  I really have come to enjoy those, and glad these weren’t ground up or given away for bait.  I got home, butchered the frames by cutting off the tail and trimming any rib bones left, then vac packing all.  The “real” vac packer sure works nice.

I’m stiff all over today and back at my real job.

Mark Stopha
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

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