Puget Sound Fall Fishing 2012

The Puget Sound season ended last week. With that, we are done with another year of fishing! The fishing this fall in the Sound was great. In fact, it was the best local fall season we’ve had in probably the last decade. We delivered a number of fres shipments to the New Seasons Markets in Portland. After the first couple deliveries, we got several comments from the seafood managers that these were some of the finest Keta they had seen. We’d have to agree. Good meat color, firm texture and thick belly walls equals happy fishermen, buyers, and customers!

A fresh Puget Sound Keta salmon fillet seasoned with fennel fronds and bulb,olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes…yum.

Our farmers market customers were just as happy.  We sell the small whole Keta salmon for $20 flat at the market, which is a great deal for a fresh, whole fish!  We also pick out a couple hundred pounds each weekend of large, bright salmon to fillet and bag for the farmers markets.  The Keta salmon has a 3-5 year life cycle, starting out as fry in freshwater, migrating to the ocean to grow and mature, and then running back to Puget Sound as adult salmon.  The 3-year-olds are usually the relatively smaller ones, whereas the 4 and 5-year-olds have a bit of extra time in the ocean to grow and come back larger.  Headed and gutted, a small Keta salmon is 4-5 pounds, whereas a large one is 9-12 pounds.  Keta is the 2nd largest species of Pacific salmon, behind King.

Jonah pitching out some nice fresh Puget Sound Keta salmon into totes, fall 2012.

Of the 5 species of Pacific salmon, the Pink and Keta are by far the most often misunderstood and stigmatized.  When we first started direct-marketing them at the farmers markets about thirteen years ago, most of our customers had never considered eating a salmon that is also known as “chum”.  Now we have a following of customers who realize what an amazing, natural resource this is, in addition to tasting delicious!  We do a couple things to maintain the integrity of the Pink and Keta we bring to market: we catch them in saltwater, bleed, clean and immerse them in  refrigerated seawater immediately after being caught, and rigorously grade the salmon during offload to ensure the right fish end up at the right place.  In the photo above, Jonah is sorting his fish out into 3 totes-#1 hi-grade’s, small #1′s, and smokers.  It was great to see such nice fish in the Sound this year!

Drew filleting fresh Puget Sound Keta in the Loki warehouse, fall 2012.

This fall was the first season since graduating college in 2007 that I didn’t fish with Pete on F/V Njord.  With the expansion of our inventory this summer, I thought it best if I focused on keeping the business operations humming.  Luckily, Drew found us online and worked out great.  He fished every opening with Pete, is working Sundays at the West Seattle Farmers Market, and is planning on deck handing with Pete in Alaska in the summer of 2013!
I’ll update again soon with what we’re up to this winter.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Catching Back Up

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Monstrous Keta salmon from the 2012 summer season.

Things have been cooking over here at Loki Fish, so much so that I’ve been neglecting my poor blog pretty badly.  We’ve grown a bit as a company this summer in order to try to meet the needs of our growing customer base.  Last spring, we ended up having to dramatically slow down our wholesaling to grocery stores and restaurants, much to our chagrin and also our customers!  We squeaked by with enough product at the farmers markets, but it was a balancing act that was a little too close for comfort.  This past summer we worked closely with two of Pete’s formers deckhands – Mark Johansen (F/V Cora J) and Byron Spence (F/V Mount Royal) to help round out our inventory.  They have the same handling procedures as our two boats – namely, dressing the fish immediately on-board and immersing them in refrigerated seawater.  They also offload their fish on the dock in Alaska with us and send their fish down in our trucks.  We are keeping separate cold storage lots of their fish in order to assure our integrity at the farmers market is not compromised, where the business model is direct-marketing with no products allowed that are being re-sold.  We are hoping that this develops into a sustainable business model that will allow us to weather the natural ups and down of the fish business, while keeping our quality control and integrity at the forefront.

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Delicious 6 oz. portions of pink salmon drizzled with yummy lemon sorrel sauce. Mmm.

This summers harvest was pretty strong, with a huge run of big, bright keta salmon to start it off.  They were followed by a strong run of medium-sized cohos, and the season ended with a very nice run of pink salmon.  It wasn’t our biggest year for sockeye, and was a fair amount less than the previous two or three years, but hopefully by working with Mark and Byron we will have sockeye available at least through the winter months.  We’ve got quite a bit of beautiful vacuum packed 6-7 ounce and 12-20 oz portions of pink, keta, coho and sockeye available on the online store.

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A piece of red king from summer 2012. This one was cut from a 40 pound fish, and I do believe it was the nicest salmon I have ever seen.

This off-season we have a bit of marketing work to do, and we are also looking to continue to manufacture more of our own products in-house.  The year-round farmers markets continue to be the backbone of our operation, and our stores and restaurants should be kept happy by our expanded inventory.  Hopefully sometime in there we’ll take a little break also, but that might not be until the spring months.  Talk to you soon!

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Danny samples some smoked coho at the University District Farmers Market, and he wears a mask while he does it. Good times had by all.

Happy Winter!

Winter had been extremely mild up until this week, when we saw some big snow in the Northwest and have been more or less closed for business the last couple of days.  We’re settling in nicely to the winter routine: weekend farmers markets, wholesale routes on Mondays and Fridays, and little projects/taking a breather in the middle of the week.

Speaking of little projects, we’ve been making some great batches of pickled salmon in the warehouse and selling it both at the farmers markets and to stores.

Amy and I made the trip down to Portland to do some demo’s at the New Seasons Markets the week after Christmas. We were sampling smoked keta, keta lox and pickled salmon. We spent 4 hours each day at their two newest stores: Fisher’s Landing and Progress Ridge. We really love the New Seasons Markets! Not only do they walk the talk in terms of working directly with small producers like ourselves, their stores are distinct in their extremely helpful brand of customer service. All in all, a great reason to get away to Portland for a couple days.

Our spring is projecting to be fairly quiet and mellow. In terms of our inventory, we are going to be running out of some products far before the boats leave for Alaska next June. We are going to do our best to keep the farmers markets stocked, while still keeping product on the shelves at our wholesale accounts for as long as we can. Every year is a little bit different, and it’s always a challenge trying to project our inventory over a number of months, since we put up almost all of our product for the year in a 10-12 week season. The longer we do it the less stressful it is though, generally speaking!

Puget Sound Fishing is Underway!

It was a beautiful, cool night to start the 2011 fall fishing season in Puget Sound.  Unfortunately the fishing was slow for both of our boats, but it looks like it may just be a late season, like most things this year.  We will be fishing 2-3 times per week through mid-November, so please stop by the farmers market to pick up a fresh fillet, whole fish, or fresh ikura!

F/V Loki fishing for Keta in Puget Sound on 10/16/11.

 

Pete Knutson pulling aboard the first Keta salmon of the fall season on F/V Njord

Summer Time

We’re slightly over half-way through our summer fishing season, so it’s about time for an overdue report. It’s been a good summer so far, with a nice amount of all 5 species being sent down from the two boats.  The first couple weeks we had a number of large kings.  In fact,  the second week of the season Jonah caught a couple beautiful 35 pound white kings.  It was the first time at the University District Market that we had a fillet cooler dedicated exclusively to white king! It was fun to hear peoples reactions the following week after having tried it.  The pinks have just started to show up, but we should be bringing in a lot more in the next 2-3 weeks.

A couple healthy kings fillets from week 1 of the 2011 summer season.

On July 17th, I had the pleasure of working with Tamara Murphy at Burning Beast. Her new restaurant, Terra Plata, is slated to open in the Melrose Market on Capitol Hill. When Tamara initially approached me about the event, I didn’t know a lot about it except that it was a bunch of chefs getting together and cooking lots of meat. It’s actually a benefit for Smoke Farm, which is a really amazing 365-acre arts and education center in Arlington, WA. I had a great time and will definitely be back next year. I highly recommend checking it out. Here’s some pics from the event:

Fresh Keta fillets getting ready for the heat.

 

First the fillets were placed on cedar planks, and tied down with wooden dowels, string and wire.

Tamara and Rion getting the salmon just right on the fire.

 

The fillets were then rubbed with some delicious spices (cardamom!), and hung around a firepit that Tamara welded. There was re-bar sticking through the grating, and the fish was hung by wires around the fire. It was like a magical Christmas tree of salmon!

Amazing, creative food art at Burning Beast 2011.

 

The salmon was served on top of couscous with a nice yogurt sauce. Unfortunately my iphone died so I didn’t get a good picture of the finished product.

We also had a great demo around the 4th of July at the University District Farmers Market with Becky Selengut, who has recently written a book on sustainable seafood called Good Fish.  Becky filleted and cooked a coho and a sockeye for the audience.  Unfortunately we were slamming at the stall so I couldn’t get away to check it out.  I would really recommend anyone who is interested in seafood to check out her book.

Otherwise, the summer has been relatively uneventful.  The summer always goes by fast once it gets going.   A couple more weeks and the boats will be back.  We’ve got Puget Sound Pink Salmon in September, and fall Keta fishing in October/November.  I’ll check in again soon when more exciting stuff happens :)

 

Hello 2011!

Wow, it’s been a doozy of an intermission on the blog. It’s wintertime, and wintertime means getting projects done. And also sleeping more. Here’s a little breakdown of what’s been keeping us busy the last couple months:

-F/V Njord is hauled out of the water at Fishermen’s Terminal and getting a complete interior remodel, including all new electronics and wiring. Pete had a bad boat fire last August, which melted most everything on the inside of the boat above the engine room. Luckily the work is covered by insurance. For the 2011 fishing season Pete will be sporting some new gear!

-I’ve been pickling salmon in the warehouse, and selling it at the farmers markets. So far we’ve had great customer feedback. I’ve been packing 4 different jar sizes: 4 oz, 6 oz, 8 oz and 24 oz. We rolled it out right before the Christmas season and quickly sold out of the first batch. We’ll keep pickling and get it up on the online store soon as well.

-Jonah has been doing store demos and adding new wholesale accounts. Among others, we’ve established a new account with Talin Market out of New Mexico, who originally found us at the University District Farmers Market. Connecting the dots!

-F/V Loki will be getting hauled out in the spring. Among other things, Jonah will be putting a new bug shoe on the Loki, which is a piece of hardware that keeps out saltwater teredos, a little boring insect that can wreak havoc on a wood boat. He’s also planning on installing a larger freshwater system on the boat!

The online store has been going great, and we’re in the midst of adding new products, more shipping options and a mini-redesign.

We’re looking at adding new farmers markets when they start up in the spring. We had a great year in 2010 at the markets and are excited to see what other markets we can fit into our schedule to keep growing the local food movement.

I’ll try to keep checking in about what we’re up to during the rest of the off-season. No promises though!

Crazy Summer Madness

Here we are again, past the halfway point of summer fishing, with three more weeks left in the 2010 Alaskan season. I thought I would share a couple stories from last weekend from both land and sea:

Last Saturday at the University District Farmers Market, I, along with Billy of Billy’s Tomatoes, Jay from Alm Hill, Brent from Olsen Farms and my main Loki market man Danny chased and recovered $360 which had been stolen out of the till of one of our fellow vendors, Appel Farms. I was happily enjoying my Patty Pan quesadilla when I saw Brent yelling “hey! HEY! HEY!!!” at a suspicious looking dude, who in turn fled the market at high speed from the southwest corner. I dropped my lunch, turned and gave chase, and found myself running after him down 12th St, through a residential alley, all the while yelling “That guy stole from the market!! Stop him!!”. A random punk rocker jumped off his porch and gave chase with me. The robber, running out of breath after sprinting 5 blocks, looked back and saw us gaining on him, and began to curse. At that point, he threw a large handful of twenty dollar bills on the ground and said “That’s all the money! Leave me alone!”. We gathered up the money and the large contingent of farmers caught up to us. We walked back to the market and returned the money to Appel Farms, who still had not realized she had been robbed. Let that be a lesson to those who might consider stealing from the market: you probably won’t get away with it!

Meanwhile, on Sunday in Southeast Alaska, we almost lost F/V Njord to a boat fire. Pete’s stove, which heats the inside cabin, malfunctioned and caught on fire. Pete and his two deckhands were out on the back deck cleaning fish, and Jonah saw the smoke billowing out from his boat a couple hundred yards away. By the time he got close enough to alert Pete as to what was happening, it was too hot to get inside the boat, and the wiring had been burned out which left Pete with no way to pump water to put the fire out. They ran a long hose over from Jonahs boat, and doused the fire with seawater. All of Pete’s electronics are totaled, and the inside of the boat has extensive damage. Luckily, they caught the fire before it hit any hydraulic or fuel lines, which would have quickly made the situation much worse. Pete also has insurance, which will help out with replacing all of the damaged equipment. Pete missed about half of the fishing opening, but it was still a decent week of fishing between the two boats, all things considered.

With any luck, the rest of the season will be relatively uneventful :)