I just returned from a week-long adventure in Alaska, thanks to Trident Seafoods “Women of Seafood” program. The goal of the sponsored travel is education, fishing, and fellowship and all three objectives were met with resounding success.
Prior to my trip, I asked you what you wanted to know about seafood and you responded with thoughtful, probing questions. I sorted the questions into three buckets: nutritional benefits of seafood, issues surrounding sustainability of fishing, and clarification on fish oil supplements. I will be following up with all three of these categories in future posts, but today I want to give you a flavor of the trip.
When I tell people I just returned from Alaska, the first thing they ask is “were you on a cruise?” Well, if you count being on trawler in the Bering Sea a cruise, then yes! But, this “cruise” took me to parts of Alaska that the average cruise ship doesn’t go, and most people don’t see.
We started the trip in Seattle, where we did a tour of the famous Pike Place Market, where I was challenged to catch a fish at the Pike Place Fish Market, the only fish I caught that week! We were introduced to two local restaurants, known for their delicious seafood, Staple & Fancy for dinner and Serious Biscuit for breakfast the following morning before heading off to King Salmon airport in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Upon landing, we toured the Naknek production facility to watch sockeye salmon processing…from fresh fish off the boat to frozen fish, fish meal, and fish oil, all within hours of the catch. Many of us don’t know how our food gets from sea to table and seeing the operation gave me a new appreciation of fisherman and processors. This plant runs 24/7 during salmon season to give us the highest quality fish. After the tour we headed to a lodge on the Naknek River for a wonderful dinner of, you guessed it, salmon.
One of the questions you asked was about the different types of salmon. An easy way to remember it is to look at your hand.
- Thumb, rhymes with Chum (also called Keta)
- The space between your thumb and index finger looks like a sock, so think of Sockeye (also called Red)
- The middle finger is the largest, so that is for King Salmon (also called Chinook)
- We wear rings on the ring finger (often silver rings), so think of Silver Salmon (also called Coho)
- And, of course, the pinkie is for Pink Salmon
The next day we donned waders and took to skiffs to fish for Sockeye; my first experience with fly fishing and it wasn’t easy! Obviously, not easy because I didn’t catch anything. But, only one person in our group caught a Sockeye, so I’m blaming it on the 90-degree heat! I think the fish just wanted to swim in deeper, cooler water since it seems that I brought the Georgia weather with me to Alaska!
In the afternoon we took a float plane to Katmai National Park and hiked the bear trail to Brooks Falls to watch the bears fishing for salmon. They didn’t have any better luck than I did, but it was amazing to see them in action! As we were getting ready to board our float plane, we had a slight delay as a momma bear took her two cubs for a lakeside stroll. No one wants to come between a mom and her cubs!
The next day we took a flight to Dutch Harbor, midway down the Aleutian Island chain, and were lucky to find a catcher/processor vessel in the harbor for a tour. These vessels catch the fish and process it all on board before off loading the frozen fish in the harbor. Amazing to tour the boat as the cargo was being delivered to the dock. The number one thing I remember about the tour was how clean it was…. cleaner than my own kitchen! The dedication to food safety (as well as safety of the crew) is remarkable.
After the tour our “cruise” began; we boarded the Fishing Vessel (F/V) Sovereignty, heading out to fish for wild Alaska Pollock, heading to Akutan. If you’ve ever watched Deadliest Catch, you might recognize this view of Akutan, the largest primary fish processing facility in North America. The Pollock were not cooperating as they were further west and north, so we couldn’t drop the net, but we were entertained by a pod of humpback whales (at least 40 of them!) scooping herring into their huge jaws!
Touring the plant, a mini-city, as they processed Pollock at lightning speed was amazing. They also process surimi and fish oil. After a long day (dusk is about 11:30 in Alaska this time of year), we crashed in Akutan. Fog blanketed the island and the only way back to Dutch Harbor was to board the trawler at 5 AM for another 5-hour trip. (There is no airstrip on the island….only a helicopter pad.) The crew was so gracious to the eight women on board; preparing delicious meals for 2 days! I never expected to eat shrimp ceviche on a fishing vessel in the Bering Sea!
Our flight out of Alaska took us to Anacortes, Washington to tour a secondary processing plant. This is where the frozen fish meets battering and breading, depending on what the customer wants. From Costco and Sam’s Club to quick service restaurants to food service in schools and other institutions, you’ve probably had seafood from the Bering Sea!
Our last stop was in Seattle at the Trident Innovation Center where we got a peek, and a taste, of innovative products that will be coming to market in the future. We also heard from the Seafood Nutrition Partnership and the Alaska Seafoods Marketing Institute and many of your questions were answered.
The last night focused all on the fellowship as we relived our adventures and enjoyed the new friendships we made. We dined at the famous Ray’s and were joined by Captain Josh Harris. I never thought I would be learning to crack Alaska King Crab legs with the Deadliest Catch star!
I’m working on new posts to answer all of your questions, so stay tuned! But, for now, eat more seafood, because it does make you smarter and prettier!
Very special thanks to our Trident hosts, amazing Women of Seafood, Ana and Christine!
For more information on eating well, moving well, and being well check out Food & Fitness After 50.
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