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Fishing the King Salmon opener: What it’s like delivering line-caught wild Alaskan salmon

This month, we celebrate the king salmon. And gratitude.

This is the story of what it’s like to produce line-caught wild king salmon.

I spend most of my time in the office answering emails and calls, composing monthly reports for our Alaska Gold Seafood business, and writing blog posts like this one. But in early July I got to go out fishing for the first summer king salmon opener in southeast Alaska and wanted to share my experience here for our customers because not until you see our fishermen in action can you really appreciate the extraordinary craft that is producing a line-caught wild Alaskan king salmon. It’s what makes me show up to work every day.

I went out fishing with Charlie Piercy who has been a Seafood Producers Cooperative fisherman/owner since 1986 and until recently has served on our Fishermen Board of Directors as Chairman. Charlie usually fishes with his wife Sally in what he calls a “mom and pop” operation on the F/V Tuckahoe, a  wooden trolling boat built in 1952 in Port Angeles, Washington. But Sally recently had knee injury and thought Charlie would need some company, so Charlie asked me to go fishing with him. It’s great to get out of the office and I responded, “Yeah, sure. It’ll be fun.”

“I don’t know about fun,” Charlie said, “but it’ll be interesting. You’ll be fishing. And as it is for all of us fishermen, when the money runs out, at least we’ll have the stories.”

The name for Charlie’s boat, the Tuckahoe comes from Virginia Algonquian tockawhoughe and is the name for either of two rhizomatic aquatic plants found in marshes and swamps used for food by early native Americans on the east coast. It’s also the name of a village in New York and legend says that the boat builder jumped up and swam there from Ellis Island upon arriving in America. The builder wanted a unique name with distinction.

Having known Charlie as our board chairman and seen him in action through fishermen board meetings, I know that he is an engineer by training from his methodical thinking and a poet at heart for his creative analogies to present ideas. You can tell all of this immediately once you arrive at his property, which Charlie calls his sanctuary. Overlooking a spectacular view of Clarence Strait amidst a beautiful forest, Charlie’s sanctuary is built with timber he felled and artifacts from a career of fishing and working in the woods.

Charlie’s mind works in different ways and he has unusual ways of communicating his ideas. You have to listen carefully because Charlie speaks in metaphors and analogies and might be talking about ice cream when he’s really talking about fish. The rockfish we catch he calls ice cream money, because they’re not why we’re out on the water, but they’re the icing on the cake, the little bonus to the fishing trip that allows Charlie to buy some ice cream as a treat. As chairman, Charlie led our fishermen-owned co-op with his unusual thinking that sparked productive conversations. His leadership got our board and co-op into a much better place and for that I am grateful and have deep respect for Charlie.

I meet Charlie in Ketchikan and the first thing we do is go grocery shopping for a week’s worth of supplies. Charlie lives at the end of the road on Revillagigedo Island in a house he built with timber that he cut down himself. That night, I meet the Piercy Family and have dinner and play my mandolin in the Piercy garden overlooking Clarence Strait on a long Alaskan summer evening before our departure. Even at 10:30, the gorgeous orange sun hangs in the horizon over the strait creating a symphony of bird songs and mandolin twang.  A fruit tree planted for each grandchild, Sally is careful to put the chickens in at night, as I see the damage caused by a brown bear on one of the crabapple trees.

Charlie Piercy and the F/ V Tuckahoe.

The following morning we depart Ketchikan Harbor just after 5am after a 3:30am wake-up and all the last-minute preps that take place before a big journey. A few miles down the road in what Charlie calls his old “crummy,” his beat-up old pick-up truck packed thick with gear and tools thrown everywhere, Charlie lets out a guffaw, remembering that we forgot to grab the bait. And he decides we’ll make do with the handful of bait he had from his last trip. (Fortunately, we have a fair amount of spoons, plugs and flashers, but we ration the bait carefully throughout our trip.)

Once we untie the boat and slip out of the harbor, we let out a sigh of relief, knowing that whatever we forgot we’ll have to make do without. We spend the rest of the day making the long traverse along Clarence Strait around Prince of Wales Island. Trolling boats troll at about 2.5 knots but “run” at 7 knots, which isn’t much, so it takes a while to make the journey to Charlie’s favorite July king salmon spot.

At some point during the late afternoon Charlie tells me that we’re coming up on a “whale-y” spot. Rounding Point Baker, I get out my binoculars. The water gets choppy here, but just as Charlie predicted, we see a family of orcas “finning,” showing off their massive dorsal fins not far from the boat. The largest male has a fin that is easily 6 feet high or more and it appears that he and some other adults are showing a younger orca how to hunt. A few minutes later we see a little mountain peak in the distance and a family of humpbacks.

That night, we anchor at Anchor Lab Bay near Labouchere Bay at the north end of Prince of Wales Island after a long day of “running.”

The next morning begins with the first of two “big sea crossings” from Labouchere Bay to the water in between Kuiu Island and Coronation Island, where a few months before a fellow co-op member’s beautiful schooner, the F/V Masonic, got stuck on the rocks, requiring a Coast Guard rescue in the middle of the night. Fortunately, all crew survived, most likely because of the high level of preparedness of the fishermen on board. But the Masonic, stuck on the rocks, unsalvageable, eventually gets pulled off the rocks by the powerful currents to find the bottom of the sea.

The second crossing is the 15 miles of open water between Coronation Island and Cape Ommaney. The sea is rough and I take a Dramamine and get a little drowsy during the crossing but spot an albatross and puffins at points far enough out to sea that we can’t see land through the thick marine air.

As we round Cape Ommaney and the southern corner of Baranof Island, I spot humpback whales preparing to bubble feed in Larch Bay and then again a bit further up in Puffin Bay.  

Late in the afternoon, we anchor in another bay, which I won’t name, where we spend the night. If you’ve never been around Baranof Island in a small vessel or flying above the island in a float plane, it’s hard to comprehend just how jagged and defined the island is with little bays and nooks and crannies. Makes you realize just how small you are being in these remote wild places.

Baranof Island Southeast Alaska
The jagged bays of Baranof Island, southeast Alaska.

Each bay has its own character, but this bay is special. You’re greeted by a very narrow entrance. On each side of the bay, you’re surrounded by what I called the Cliffs of Insanity in honor of my wife’s favorite movie The Princess Bride. Trees are growing out of rocks on the vertiginously steep cliffs. The cliffs are way too steep to log and the forest is ancient—yet you can tell that the area is renewed constantly by its remoteness and the constant storms. There’s a big waterfall at the back of the bay, and it isn’t until the second day of fishing, when the sun comes out, that I also see the glaciated mountain range that feeds the waterfall draining into the bay.

At 4am on July 1st, after our long journey, fishing hooks are finally in the water for the start of the southeast Alaska first summer commercial troll king salmon opener. Once the hooks are in the water, we go back to the wheelhouse and listen to the forecast on the Coast Guard radio station: “Low 60s, Northwest wind, 20 knots. Seas, 6 feet.” Boats are scattered around us. Some fishing 40 fathoms deep out at the edge a mile or so out from us, but we’re fishing at 25 fathoms running our lines in between the humps, the rock structures deep underwater where large king salmon lurk. And there’s only one other boat nearby, whose captain also must also have knowledge of the maze of humps.

Each trolling wire might pull 8 to 12 leaders. We use 8 leaders on each wire. The wires attach to trolling poles. Charlie has two sets of trolling poles—the bow and stern poles. Other trolling boats might have all 4 wires come off two poles, and there are pros and cons to both set-ups. You can see the pairs of trolling poles clearly on our Alaska Gold Seafood logo, and they are what give trolling boats their distinctive look. If you’re ever in Alaska on the water and see these boats with that distinctive profile and the trolling poles that make the shape of a fly’s wings, you’re looking at a classic trolling boat. They really don’t make ‘em like that any more.

The distinctive look of a salmon trolling boat.

Beyond washing dishes and sometimes cooking and keeping Charlie company, my job is to “run the lines.” Running the lines means operating a hydraulic gurdy that pulls the trolling wires up from the bottom. As the hooks come in, you check to make sure they’re not twisted, hooks aren’t bent, they’re not fouled with little jellyfish or seaweed or other debris. It looks a lot easier than it is. Charlie can run the lines without stopping the gurdy, but every time I run the lines without stopping the gurdy, I feel like the scene from the 1950s classic television show “I Love Lucy” when Lucy and Ethel are in a chocolate factory. The hooks pass me by just like the chocolate does for Lucy and Ethel.

Salmon trolling gurdies.

On each trolling pole, there is a bell. This bell rings when there is a tug on the line. Depending on the particular tonal qualities of the ring of the bell, you can get an idea of what’s on the end of the line. When Coho salmon hit the line they make a sharp ding-a-ling of the bell that soon stops. When king salmon hit, they make a big thump and a lower toned ring. You might see the wire on the trolling pole bounce up and down like a trampoline when a big king salmon hits. Each ding-a-ling gets me excited, although it must be noted that one of my lines—Charlie assigns me the two stern pole wires—is a bit more sensitive, so small fish seem bigger or just scraping the bottom gets me excited as if there were a fish on the line.

At 6am, we get our first fish. At 8 pounds, it’s at the very small end of the scale. Our second and third fish come in at 8:15 in a calmer part of the bay. The third is a 20-pounder, which makes Charlie happy.

We end the day with 20 fish. Charlie had written down 25 king salmon as a goal for the day, so we were a little disappointed that we didn’t meet our goal. Two of our kings weighed in at 21 pounds. One of these bigger fish was a white king salmon, which tend to be on the bigger side and also tend to fight harder, as Charlie has told me in the past, and it was definitely true today. The white king gave a big tug and was difficult to bring in. We sell the rare white king salmon or ivory king salmon here. Charlie maybe doesn’t catch quite as many fish as some of the younger highliners in the fleet, but his size average is exceptional. “They don’t pay you by the eyeball,” he winks at me. 

Charlie scratched in his notebook that the fish bit on a range of plugs, hootchies, and spoons, with no definitive lure being the clear winner. Each plug, flasher and hootchie is tied to a leader that is then tied to a trolling wire. Charlie has them separated at strategic distances for the depth at which we’re fishing. Each day is different and it’s worth noting what depths and lures are more successful than others.

Charlie tells me that plug fish tend to be bigger. Charlie also ties plugs onto much longer leaders. And it always feels like the lines that Charlie has assigned me catch the plug fish. It might be hard to believe but even when commercial fishing it’s very sporty to fight a large king salmon. You wrap the leader around your gloves, so basically you’re fighting a fish by hand. When the leader is 120-feet long, as it is for one of the plugs on my line, it can become quite a battle. You have to be careful where you drop your spare leader and it can become quite a mess on the boat. A fish can take off really fast while you’re bringing it in. If you’re not careful, the fish can snap the leader or slip off the hook with a jump and a little bit of slack in the line. At one point, I lose a 30+ pounder when I gaff the fish but don’t keep the gaff hook pointing up as I brought the fish over the rail.

Did I mention that there is a lot of heartache in fishing? During some of these moments my heart sinks and all I can do is wail at the sea.

At the same time, I can understand why somebody would give up a high-paying desk job to take a thrashing and a bruising to do this for 18 hours a day in the summer. It’s quite a thrill when everything works out.

It’s remarkable how unadulterated trolling is as a food production method. In an age in which everything is automated, digitized, modified, processed and re-processed, and iterated to function at its maximum efficiency, here I am fighting 20+-pound king salmon with my bare hands. 120-foot leader wrapped in my palms, one arm-length at a time, the king salmon tugging hard on the plug at the other end.

The sea is quite “roll-y” when we’re doing all of this. On my first morning, the tea mug went flying, spilling tea everywhere, after hitting a big wave, and I had to find a better way to secure it when it wasn’t in my hands. Later in the day, I was also thrown out of my seat and I had to remind myself to hold onto something. Always. Everything is difficult, but satisfying.

This isn’t “Deadliest Catch,” but the boats are smaller, the working conditions sometimes precarious and cramped, the hours long, and you’re awfully close to the water, especially when the ocean gets “roll-y.” Getting up out of your seat in the wheelhouse is difficult, as the boat sways up and down in the rolling waves. Walking out of the pilot house and then around the hatch, up and over the fish checker into the trolling pit means that every step is a small adventure. You literally have to be holding onto a rope with each step. You can’t let go for a second. There are no guardrails, no “Caution” signs. Moving one arm to the next rope you have to make sure the other arms is firmly planted to the next rope. If you let go of something on the boat, you will end up in the sea and most likely perish if quick thinking and a bit of luck don’t prevail. After my trip, I’ve got bruises on my hips, that had been banging into the stove, the door, the hatch, and the pilothouse every time I tried to move to the trolling pit from wheelhouse with the seas banging the boat around. I’ve got bruises on my elbows from where I crashed into the hatch.

Working on an old wooden fishing boat.

Yet, in an age in which most of us sit behind a desk and click, few occupations are as fulfilling as producing pure, pristine food.

Day two: By 6:30am, we have bites on all 4 trolling wires. “We hit a clatter of king salmon,” Charlie says with the bells ringing. There were even 4 kings on one wire. “We’re in the cookie jar,” as Charlie likes to call a hole right in the calmer section of water just outside of the bay. “The first most important thing in fishing is location. The second is location. The third is location,” Charlie notes in one of his many lessons for the day.

Beyond location, there is another key factor to success in fishing: minimizing gear failures. As Charlie said to me at the beginning of the trip: Fishing is constant problem-solving. There are fouled lines, broken lines, broken auto-pilots, bad knots, bent hooks. He described a time when one of his trolling poles broke and he pulled into Port Alexander, chopped down a tree, and made a new trolling pole, and went out fishing again as soon as he could.

On this busy morning of fishing with the fish biting, we spent an hour trying to throw a grappling hook at the tag line to snap it back onto the trolling wire. “A fisherman thinks in 3 dimensions, sometimes 4. You’re running lines, steering the boat, watching out for rocks and other obstacles and certainly other boats who might or might not be on the same trolling tack as you. Obviously, you’re fishing. But you’re gaffing the fish, you’re cleaning them, and oh, you’ve got to go ice them once they’re clean,” Charlie notes.

In fishing, nothing is certain. Nothing comes for free.

It takes great athleticism to get a gaff hook properly through the gill plate of a thrashing salmon in the water 2 feet below where your feet are wedged into the pit, so that you don’t fall out of the boat while you are gaffing. It takes strength to get the gaff hook through the gill plate and accuracy to make sure you get it right in the best spot, not on the meat or even worse in my situation, missing entirely and hitting the boat. A gaff hook into the meat would “number 2” the fish, reducing your pay on your fish ticket and missing the fish entirely is just frustrating.

After doing this all day, I confess to Charlie I lost my confidence after losing a large fish (close to 30 pounds) and his gaff hook, which slipped out of my hands and ended up in the ocean after another poor placement into the gill plate, causing another wail to the breeze. Charlie keeps calm and says, “Kendall, you’ve just got to let your boat fish and have confidence in yourself.” Rules for all of life, I can’t argue. And he gave me a really old gaff hook to use. “Here, you don’t have to worry if you lose this gaff.”

I get better each time running the lines. Slowly but surely the day becomes more productive. Charlie looks pleased. He talks to every fish that comes to the boat. If it’s a particularly large fish, he’ll talk to the fish while it’s on the line: “Hello, fish. Good to see you!” Talking to the fish relieves the tension.  Every time I bring fish over the rails, I let out a very deep breath, as if I had just survived a harrowing quest. “Breathe,” Charlie reminds me, just like my yoga teacher.

Charlie begins naming each fish. Fish number 32 is named “Dennis” after a basketball player with whom Charlie played at Port Angeles High School. The other fish all get names, some famous basketball players, others high school heroes, others become presidents and their corresponding currency bills, others just Charlie’s imagination wild at work. A hootchie named Fleming that he bought at the Fleming Paint Store in Sitka becomes the hero after getting a number of fish in a row.  

 “Thank you, Salmon,” he says with a twinkle in his eye each time he brings a salmon over the rails into the fish checker. As he does this, I realize the deep respect Charlie has for the fish.

The fish keep biting through the evening and it gets on 6:30-7 and we’re once again in a clatter of king salmon, the bells on the trolling poles ringing loud. I’m dead tired, hungry, have a headache, and Charlie asks me if we should give up for the evening and have dinner. I muster enthusiasm, “Are you crazy? We’re in a clatter of fish!” The bells on the trolling poles continue to ring ding-a-ling ding with the thumping tone of king salmon. A clatter indeed. We found Charlie’s cookie jar again. I sip some tea and keep on keeping on.

Trolling wires and bells.

Charlie puts a few sweet potatoes in the oven. When the potatoes are ready, we eat them plain with our hands as if the potatoes were cigars. Each of us accompany the potatoes with a can of ivory king salmon. No seasonings, no adornments—a simple but extremely satisfying meal. We keep bringing in fish and don’t quit until after 10pm. When we pull into the bay, we still must ice the last fish, anchor the boat, and put the gear away. There is no better sound than when Charlie turns off the engine once we are anchored. The engine has been humming from 3:45am until 10:30pm. It’s been a long day and we hit the sack sometime after 11.

King salmon in the fish checker.

On our third fishing day, we get a late start. 5:40am. Charlie had gotten up earlier to look and it was too foggy to even move out of our anchorage.

It’s still foggy, but there’s enough visibility to pull out of the anchorage. While running lines in the fog, I lose track of where we are until all of a sudden while bringing in a fish I could hear the waves crashing into the primitive rocky coast. By this time, I had thought we were several miles out to sea and I was surprised to hear the waves. “Charlie, we’re by the shore, almost on the rocks!”

“I know where we are!” Charlie gives me a hard time for being completely disoriented.

We start listening to the weather forecast again and it starts becoming a joke to us. This morning, it’s “haze,” as if the computerized weatherman voice is afraid to see the F-word. Fog. The computerized voice on the weather forecasts has started making us laugh. Yakutat becomes Yakoootick. It’s like a voice box. Other Alaskan coastal communities are also mispronounced.

It’s another busy day. Slow, but consistent. A slog. For dinner we make what Charlie calls “Crazy crust pizza” 1 cup flour, 2 eggs, 2/3 cup of milk, oregano, grated cheese. Mix and Pour into cake pan. We put it in his oil stove—maybe try 400 F for 20 minutes in your home stove. We used venison burger meat, but this recipe would work well with our Easy Salmon.

Fourth of July is another foggy day and we keep slogging on. Charlie puts on his fishing music.  “The sea has its blessings but there are very few perfect days. You have to sing to yourself to keep from being dismal,” he says. We listen to Stan Rogers, a Canadian folk singer. “This is one artist the whole family loves,” Charlie notes as we listen to “Barrett’s Privateers,” a sea shanty about a pirate.  We anchor in the back corner of Sandy Bay. Still foggy, we’re all by our lonesome on the Tuckahoe—no fireworks for Independence Day and a relatively early anchor.

July 5th and we overhear on the radio that the July commercial troll king opener will close at midnight. We listen to the Coast Guard radio station and eventually confirm the message we heard in other conversation on the radio. Once the Alaska Department of Fish & Game determines that the quota is nearly caught by the entire southeast Alaska troll fleet—based on fishing reports, processor reports, and their own research—they make the announcement of the closure. This quota number comes from a number calculated by biologists and from international treaty negotiations. It’s a very complicated task and the goal is to make sure that the king salmon stocks remain viable for future generations. There will be other openers throughout spring and winter, all with targeted quotas based on escapements and when certain stocks are projected to pass through regions.

It’s another foggy day and we fish outside of Whale Bay. And once again, it’s spooky not seeing where we’re going. The sun clears through from time to time and we see the beautiful Whale Bay in the distance, enjoying its glow only to see it disappear.

Toward the end of the day, I take a look at our scorecard for number of fish caught.

July 1st 20

2nd: 42

3rd: 34

4th : 15 (fog)

5th 14 (fog)

As I am closing my notebook with 14 fish for July 5th, there’s a thump on the line. I bring in and gaff the last king salmon of the trip. Our 15th of the day and 125th on the trip! We also caught 15 coho salmon. 1 sockeye, and roughly 140 pounds of rockfish.

We pull into Charlie’s secret anchorage in Still Harbor, part of Whale Bay. 10:15pm. In the fog, we  couldn’t see two landmarks that fishermen note on their entrance to Whale Bay–Dog rock and Wolf Rock. Charlie was disappointed not to show me.

The next day we’re up at 4am to run back to Sitka. It’s a gloriously sunny day. All the boats in the fleet need to unload their king salmon before going out fishing for coho salmon, for which they’ll be fishing a good chunk of the rest of the summer.

There’s a triumphant feeling upon return to our fishermen-owned plant in Sitka with a load of fish. And then a long wait. We call in on the radio once we’re in town and get the news that we’re about eighth in line. It takes about 2-3 hours to unload the fish from a boat and then re-ice the boat. There are 3 hoists and Charlie calculates roughly an eight-hour wait. Charlie takes a nap and I take off my fishing bibs and play my mandolin on the boat deck during an abnormally warm and sunny Sitka day. I play and watch the boats come by. I see the Astrolabe, a boat on which I had fished two summers ago and wave hello to Carter the captain, who usually fishes alone. Charlie wakes up and we all swap stories. Carter notes that fishing was hot up north where he was, though not on the Fairweather Grounds, where a good chunk of the fleet was fishing. The Astrolabe is a larger boat than the Tuckahoe, and Carter is not quite the mad scientist engineer that Charlie is, so the boat is a bit better organized. But the Astrolabe is a newer fiberglass boat, and I remember feeling much closer to being seasick on the Astrolabe. In fact, for over a week after fishing with Carter, every time I stood still I could feel a room sway like the sea. I’m either becoming more seaworthy with experience or the Tuckahoe was more stable in the sea. Both boats and both captains showed me a beautiful part of the world and an extraordinary craft. And I am forever grateful to both captains.

Delivering King Salmon
Delivering King Salmon to the Seafood Producers Cooperative dock in Sitka, Alaska.

As I have spent time with Carter and Charlie, I got to thinking about what we do in the office. We work to preserve a truly unique lifestyle. We work to preserve southeast Alaska coastal communities, which would struggle without independent small boat fishing families and the ancillary businesses that grow up around them. We work to preserve wildness. Without fishermen, there would probably not be the wild places that we see in Alaska. So much of the wildness of Alaska is in danger from development, mining and timber industries. Mining brings quicker profits to a few. But when managed well, as is the case with Alaska fisheries, Alaska seafood supports coastal communities and will support them into perpetuity. The money from fishing for the most part stays in the coastal communities and isn’t shifted to some foreign entity. Some of us prefer clean air and clean water over massive development. Yet, in terms of political clout, “the best we can hope for,” a fisherman once told me, “is to hold ground or lose just a little bit, and that’s a lot to wish for.”This fisherman’s statement seems to mirror the prospect that all of us who fight for the environment seem to face—we can at best hope to lose just a little. When the fishermen are gone, so are some of the lasts bit of somewhat pristine land and water left on the planet.

With Gratitude,

Kendall

Alaska Gold Seafood Customer Service rep Kendall Whitney with king salmon
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National Seafood Month SALE. Live smarter and healthier with Alaska Gold Seafood.

October is National Seafood Month, and we’d like to highlight our Alaska Gold Sablefish and our  Alaska Gold Keta Salmon, the healthy qualities of Alaska seafood, and the importance of family meals.

Our Alaska Gold Sablefish is rich, buttery and just loaded with omega-3s, the importance of which we’ll highlight in this and several other emails later this month.

Our Alaska Gold Keta Salmon is a family-friendly and affordable way to get wild-caught salmon in our diets. Mild in flavor and affordable for families on a budget, share a meal together with your family with our Alaska Gold Keta Salmon. Here’s a note from a customer about our Alaska Gold Keta Salmon: “I usually prepare the keta salmon in a little coconut oil, about 4 mins/side and serve with some mango salsa. (Mango, lime juice a little onion and cilantro, salt & pepper). Sometimes I serve it on a bed of lettuce. Works for breakfast, lunch or dinner […] This is the recipe my family and I enjoy. We like to taste the salmon and not hide it with too many other flavors.”

 This October with National Seafood Month we’d like to highlight the importance of eating smarter and healthier with seafood. 7 out of 10 deaths in the U.S. are preventable through lifestyle and nutrition changes. One nutritional improvement we can make is including more heart and brain-healthy omega-3s to our diets by eating more seafood.

Seafood and brain health are closely connected, as eating seafood can help reduce anxiety, stress and headaches, and even protect against depression. In addition, eating 8-12 ounces of seafood per week when pregnant can improve future babies’ IQs, cognitive development and eye health. Seafood also supplies children with the nutrients essential for strong bones, brain development and a healthy immune system.

In addition to celebrating our Alaska Gold Sablefish and Alaska Gold Keta Salmon and the brain-healthy omega-3s in Alaska seafood, this National Seafood Month we’d like to celebrate the all-important family meal. We are a family-oriented company with many of our fishermen coming from multiple generations of fishing families who have been part of our cooperative over the 75 years since its formation. Community and family are extremely important to us as an organization. Community and family are also important at mealtimes. Children who grow up having family meals together tend to be healthier and on average consume about 130 fewer daily calories compared to people who eat out more often. Benefits to making a routine of having a family meal together at home include a 12% reduction in being overweight, a 35% reduction in disordered eating, and a 24% increase in likelihood to select healthier foods.

This is a great time to renew a commitment to serving meals that nourish you and your family members’ bodies, brains, and lives. The benefits of seafood for kids, big and small, are really important, too! Seafood, like wild salmon and sablefish, supply the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s essential for strong bones, brain development, and healthy heart and immune system. Studies show that for children eating seafood just twice a week leads to better attention span, better grades, and better sleep. The healthy fats found naturally in seafood, the omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential to our health. Here’s a big bonus: Seafood has more vitamin B12 and vitamin D than any other type of food.

In addition, our Alaska Gold Seafood is a super-convenient family meal. The seafood portions we sell via our website can be cooked in 15 minutes or less. In a recent customer survey, over 95% of the respondents said that “Cooking with Alaska Gold Seafood is an easy weeknight meal. Super convenient!”

Enjoy our Alaska Gold Seafood in meals with family and friends and take advantage of savings on our our Alaska Gold Sablefish and our Alaska Gold Keta Salmon. Sales ends October 31st midnight PST.

Stay tuned for more highlights this month!

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Make premium-quality wild Alaska Seafood part of your regular routine with our Alaska Gold Loyalty Program

There are so many reasons to make wild Alaska seafood a regular part of your diet. 

Wild Alaska seafood…

* helps restore and maintain mental health

*relieves children’s asthma,

*and even helps us live longer and more productive lives.

Eating seafood two or three times per week can reduce risk of chronic disease. Making seafood a regular part of our diets not only lowers blood pressure, but can help potentially reduce risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic diseases.

Make premium-quality wild Alaska Seafood part of your regular routine with our Alaska Gold Loyalty Program.  Sign up for an Alaska Gold Club Loyalty Program subscription and get delivery of the fish you select at a regularly discounted price. Our Alaska Gold Loyalty Program offers are on sale through September 30th.

With a subscription to the Alaska Gold Loyalty Program, you get a regularly discounted price on a recurring Alaska Gold seafood subscription order. You only enter your credit card information once. Stop delivery any time you want. See below for how it works:

Alaska Gold Club Wild King Salmon Portions

After your first order, the default is set for monthly recurring shipments. Your order will automatically renew in one month. So, if you ordered on October 5th, your order will automatically renew with your credit card charged on the 5th of November, and then ship out on the next available shipping date.

However, you can schedule with us and we can set other dates or a different order frequency. For example, some customers have their orders renew every 6 weeks. Others have their orders renew every 3 weeks. And still other customers sometimes have us pause their recurring order and call us to renew as needed.  

We can also switch up what items you receive in your order. Maybe in one order you receive our king salmon portions and in the next order we ship our halibut portions. Just contact us via email or phone and we’re happy to take care of you. There is no cost to join!

In addition, each frozen item you add to your subscription order will be 15% off. So, if you regularly receive our Alaska Gold Sablefish Portions, you can add a 5-pound box of our king salmon portions for 15% off the a la carte price. Or, design your own variety pack using our seafood offerings, and we’ll set a regularly discounted price. Just contact us via email or phone.

Unlike the local fish market, your supermarket, or many other online sources for wild-caught seafood, as a fishermen-owned co-op we actually produce wild-caught seafood, so we’re not middlemen. We are the fishermen who feed families around the country. Because we are the actual supplier, we will shine at producing premium-quality seafood for customers in bulk quantities.

Many of our customers see the cost savings in ordering 10, 20 or even 30-pound bulk boxes of our Alaska seafood. But not everybody has a freezer big enough to handle bulk orders of wild-caught seafood. We recommend sharing with friends to enjoy the cost savings. Or, sign up for one of our Alaska Gold Club Loyalty Program subscriptions and receive a regularly discounted price for premium-quality seafood delivered to your door.

Don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to walk you through any help you need deciding if our Alaska Gold Loyalty Program is for you.

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Seafood is brain food. Here is how wild Alaska Seafood can help restore and maintain mental health.

The impact of diet and lifestyle play a large role in our mental health. The most positive lifestyle changes that we can make to reduce risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and mental health disorders include increasing physical activity, building healthy social relationships, and eating a nutrient-dense diet. Studies are coming to a consensus that the inclusion of seafood in our diets is essential to maintaining mental health.

The brain is largely composed of omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood, particularly fatty fish like sablefish and wild salmon, is rich in vital long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3s), such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which contribute to brain health. These omega-3s also benefit heart health, the immune system, and other aspects of our health.

DHA, the dominant omega-3 in our brains is a critical component of every cell. DHA increases growth for new cells and protection for existing cells, in addition to increasing neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to connect one brain cell to the next. Omega-3 fatty acids also help to decrease inflammation in the brain, which can occur with traumatic brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis.

EPA and DPA from seafood help to protect, restore and rebuild the brain.

When it comes to prevention of depression and reducing symptoms of depression, diet is a well-known factor. Most commonly associated with reducing symptoms of depression is the Mediterranean diet, which includes fruits and vegetables, legumes and seafood. EPA, in particular, has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects that are suggestive to reduce depression.

Seafood is also an essential component for maintaining mental health for expecting mothers. Research that measures blood levels of omega-3s during pregnancy shows a clear link between low blood levels of omega-3s and increased rates of post-partum depression. Seafood is one of the best sources of Omega-3s; however, pregnant women tend to minimize their intake of seafood during pregnancy because of the mercury content in seafood. Yes, longer living predatory fish such as shark, mackerel and swordfish have higher levels of mercury and should be avoided by pregnant women. However, seafood such as wild salmon, have lower levels of mercury. In addition, wild salmon and sablefish have high levels of Omega-3s and selenium, the latter of which protects against mercury toxicity.

Research that measures blood levels of omega-3s during pregnancy shows a clear link between low blood levels of omega-3s and increased rates of post-partum depression.

A recent white paper was developed using the systematic review process of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Scientific Advisory Committee. This review uncovered more than 40 scientific studies since 2000 that highlight the tremendous health benefits of consuming seafood by moms that support the brain development of their babies. A big finding from this scientific review showed children gaining an average of 7.7 full IQ points when their moms ate seafood during pregnancy compared to moms that did not eat seafood. In addition, consumption of between 4 and 12 ounces of seafood during childhood had beneficial associations with positive neuro-cognitive outcomes.

Avoiding seafood entirely makes for diets insufficient in omega-3 fatty acids and can place women at risk for developing perinatal depression. Studies recommend that pregnant women should consume 4 ounces of fatty fish per week, twice a week as recommended by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Especially important is to include seafood that is high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury, such as wild salmon and sablefish.

Still under the radar is just how important vitamin D is to our overall health and how good a source of vitamin D that seafood is. Sablefish and wild salmon are especially good sources of vitamin D3. A 6-ounce sablefish portion has 90% of the daily value for vitamin D, as does coho salmon, while a 6-ounce sockeye salmon portion has 100% of the daily recommended value of vitamin D.  Vitamin D plays a role in neuromuscular function and influences cellular growth. It also enhances the secretion of insulin. Low levels of vitamin D are found in people who suffer from depression, anxiety and are associated with cognitive decline. Due to modern lifestyles, people spend less time outdoors in the sun and are deficient in this key ingredient. Dietary vitamin D coming from seafood, one of the best natural dietary sources of vitamin D (particularly wild salmon and sablefish ) can help reduce There is also increasing evidence that vitamin D can help reduce the risk of dying from cancer, particularly the vitamin D3 in seafood.

With all of the health benefits illustrated here, there are great reasons to make seafood a regular part of your diet. Eat seafood and be happy. It’s truly brain food.

Sources

Zhang Y et al. “Intakes of fish and polyunsaturated fatty acids and mild-to-severe cognitive impairment risks: a dose-response meta-analysis of 21 cohort studies.” Am J Clin Nutrition. 2016; 103(2): 330-340

Grimm et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids, lipids, and apoE lipidation in Alzheimer’s disease: a rationale for multi-nutrient dementia preventia.” Journal of Lipid Research 2017; 58(11):2083- 2101

Klimova, Blanka and Valis, Martin. “Nutritional Interventions as Beneficial Strategies to Delay Cognitive Decline in Healthy Older Individuals.” Nutrients 2018.

Cutuili, Debora. “Functional and Structural Benefits Induced by Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids During Aging.” Current Neuropharmacology 2017: 15(4): 534- 542

Li Y. et al. “Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis.” Psychiatry Res. 2017;253:373–382. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.04.020

Bountziouka V et al. J “Long-term fish intake is associated with less severe depressive symptoms among elderly men and women: the MEDIS (Mediterranean Islands Elderly) epidemiological study.” Aging Health 2009 Sep;21(6):864- 80. doi: 10.1177/0898264309340693. Epub 2009 Jul 8.

Berk, Sanders, et al. “Vitamin D deficiency may play a role in depression.” Med Hypotheses 2007; 69(6): 1316-9. Epub 2007 May 11

Cole G. et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids and dementia.” Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2009 Aug-Sep; 81(0): 213-221

Golding J, Steer C, et al. “High levels of depressive symptoms in pregnancy with low omega-3 fatty acid intake from fish.” Epidemiology 2009: 20: 598-603

Sontrop J, Avison, W.R., et al “Depressive symptoms during pregnancy in relation to fish consumption and intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 2008: 22(4): 389-399

Sontrop J, et al. “High levels of depressive symptoms in pregnancy with low omega-3 fatty acid intake from fish.” Epidemiology 2009: 20(4); 598-603

Patrick R., Ames B. “Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior.” FASEB 2015 (29): 2207-2222

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Savory Easy Salmon Hand Pies Quick Recipe

Hand pie made with wild salmon burger meat.

Easy Salmon Hand Pies Recipe Idea…

There are plenty of opportunities to create a wild salmon hand pie to your liking, so we are not posting a recipe here but a recipe idea to get you started creating fun Easy Salmon Hand Pies.

Easy Salmon Savory Hand Pies Recipe Idea: Mix uncooked Alaska Gold Easy Salmon Burger Meat with sauteed onion and celery, fresh tarragon, cream, and bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roll out 6″ rounds of whole wheat pastry dough and fill with salmon mixture. Seal, egg wash, and bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

The picture and recipe idea come to us from Beth Short-Rhoads and her Sitka, Alaska Fireweed Dinner Delivery Service.
#mealdelivery #handpies #SitkaAlaska #EasySalmon #WildSalmon #AlaskaGoldSalmon #WildAlaskaSeafood #nourishingmeals

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Wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon with Compound Butter Recipe

Grilled Sockeye Salmon Recipe.
Alaska Sockeye Salmon with Compound Butter Recipe. Photo courtesy of Alaska Seafood.

Ingredients

4 portions Alaska Gold Sockeye Salmon portions
Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Cooking spray
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

Remove thawed Alaska Gold Sockeye Salmon portions from refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking.  Heat grill to 375°F.  

Cut 2 pieces of wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil about 6-inches longer than the salmon side.  Stack the foil pieces (shiny side down) on a baking sheet and spray generously with cooking spray.  Place the salmon, skin side down, in the middle of the foil.  Fold the foil sides and ends up (1 to 2-inches) to make a shallow pan around the salmon, leaving at least a 1-inch margin around the fish.  Season salmon with salt and pepper.  

Carefully transfer the foil pan to the center of the preheated grill.  Do not cover the salmon with foil or close the foil over the salmon.  Close grill cover and cook for 10 to 13 minutes, cooking just until fish is lightly translucent in the center – it will finish cooking from retained heat.  Remove from the grill and let rest a few minutes before serving.

Variation: Roast in an oven preheated to 375°F, cooking 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly translucent in the center.  Be sure to let the salmon rest a few minutes before serving.

Directions

Fresh Herb, Shallot and Lemon Butter:
1-1/2 cups finely chopped shallots or green onions
1 pound unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup Chardonnay
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh leafy herbs, such as thyme, tarragon, dill, parsley, or basil
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauté the shallots in 3 tablespoons of the butter until soft but not brown.  Add the wine and continue to cook until all of the liquid is evaporated.  Cool completely.

Soften the remaining butter with an electric mixer or by hand and stir in the shallot mixture, herbs, lemon zest and juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or roll into logs, wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze for later use.

To serve, cut and place thick coin-sized pieces of compound butter on top of hot fish and let it melt.  If using frozen butters, soften them just a bit before placing them on top of your grilled foods so that they can begin to melt as you bring them to the table.

Photo and recipe courtesy of Alaska Seafood.

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Celebrate the people behind our Alaska Gold Seafood

Dear Alaska Gold customers,

Food has always been a human story. Food brings people together. We share community and fellowship with those we love by breaking bread with them. Food is sacred. It’s what we put in our bodies and gives us life. In the case of Seafood Producers Cooperative, producers put their hearts and souls into bringing a pure, wild, minimally processed protein to people who want to enjoy quality ingredients. The people behind this food work hard, each bringing their unique style and background to their craft. 

The fishermen-owners of Seafood Producers Cooperative are a collective of optimists and some of the last producers of a pure, unadulterated wild protein produced using traditional fishing methods on this planet. We are courageous, free-spirited and independent but also community-minded. Because anybody who has ever fished for a living knows that there will come a moment when you will have to depend on your peers, your fellow fleet members, and your community for help. Our producer-owners are Alaskans. They’re also New Yorkers who hitchhike to Alaska looking for adventure but end up staying because they can’t imagine any other way to live. We are independent-minded. Many of us are highly opinionated. But some of us are also soft-spoken, humble because we’ve been humbled by nature. Some of us were school teachers who, looking for summer income, got hooked and stayed in Alaska to fish. Some of us were executives for Wall Street banks or Silicon Valley start-ups who ditched those lives to go fishing. For some, fishing for a living is all we know and all we’’ll ever know.

Meet some of our producers below. And don’t forget that our Diamond anniversary coupon expires Friday May 31st at midnight PST. Use the following coupon code for $75 off on orders over $300: akgolddiamondanniversary

Thank you for being part of our history,

The Producer-owners of Seafood Producers Cooperative, whose products are available for home delivery at AlaskaGoldBrand.com.

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Summer 2019 Frozen Seafood Shipping Schedule for Holiday Weeks

Holidays will drastically change our shipping schedule, so please plan ahead and carefully read below if you’re wondering when to expect your frozen seafood order. Note: We will be closed Monday, September 2nd to observe the Labor Day Holiday. We expect to experience exceptionally high shipping volume on the Tuesday after Labor Day. We will do our best to ship all orders on the Tuesday following Labor Day. However, we will contact you if we think we may need to hold any regular 1-2 day ground shipments for shipping on Wednesday.

Also, note that orders placed during the week prior to Labor Day (August 26th-30th) will be affected by potential delays. Orders placed on Tuesday August 27th after 9:45am CST shipping to addresses in the 3-day shipping zone (see map below) will ship out the week after Labor Day. Orders placed on Wednesday August 28th after 9:45am CST shipping to addresses in the 2-day shipping zone (see map below) will ship out the week after Labor Day. Orders placed on Thursay August 29th after 9:45am CST shipping to addresses in the 1-day shipping zone (see map below) will ship out the week after Labor Day.

As always, please contact us before ordering if you need an order by a specific date. There is a possibility we can shepherd an order through to get there in time, but note we will be available only on a limited basis.

We hang our hats on quality and service. We are not Amazon and we recognize that we are not going to win the speediest seafood shipping award, but if you need an order by a specific date, please contact us and we can at least do our best to shepherd that order to you in time. But the best thing to do is always plan ahead.

Frozen seafood shipping transit map for



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Celebrating the special place where we work

Place is an essential element of our Alaska Gold Seafood story. And at 3 points in our Co-op’s 75-year history the special place where we operate has forever altered who we are as a fishermen-owned co-op. To celebrate our 75-year anniversary, we’d like to share those stories of place here:

  1. In 1952, several Co-op fishermen began pioneering fishing spots on the Fairweather Grounds. Fishing at the Grounds opened the Co-op up to some very productive fishing grounds in some of the wildest country on the planet.
  2. The 1964 Good Friday earthquake and subsequent tsunami destroyed just about everything that the Co-op had in the region, leaving the Co-op in an existential crisis.
  3. The building of our fishermen-owned Sitka plant satisfied our Co-op’s over-riding concern for maintaining a top-qualityproduct from ocean to market.

….

The Fairweather Grounds

In 1952, Toivo Andersen in his boat the Greta, Oscar Vienola in the Anna Marie, and Arthur Vienola in the Belle J pioneered salmon trolling in the Fairweather Grounds. Fairweather Grounds is a misnomer, as the grounds are known for being rich with life but surrounded by deep, unforgiving waters and open ocean. Ferocious winds and choppy waves hit where the continental shelf rises toward the surface of the ocean, creating hazardous conditions for the small fishing vessels that operate there.

To navigate, the original Fairweather fishermen used compasses, fathometers, and radio direction finders that enabled them to take bearings on each other. When their fathometers indicated they were in fifty fathoms, they would find themselves on the edge of the shelf, the most productive waters, and they would let go a halibut anchor with buoy line and flagpole attached so that they could orient themselves and find it again. After discovering how rich the grounds were for fish, these pioneering fishermen would bring a new innovation that had been a “secret weapon” during the final days of World War II, the Loran (Long Range Navigation). Loran required skill and tinkering, but gave these fishermen a better chance of finding their best spots. As it became easier to find the shelf, other boats began following these Fairweather fishermen out to the Fairweather Grounds. All these fishermen risked and continue to risk rough seas in one of the wildest corners on the planet.

On the coast near the Fairweather Grounds, Lituya Bay has been a refuge for salmon and halibut fishermen during storms and it has a fascinating history documented well in one of our late fishermen Francis Caldwell’s Land of the Ocean Mists. Entrance to Lituya Bay can be made provided the tide is flooding and outside swell conditions are not causing the bar to break. Judging the current is key. At high tide the entrance is about 1,000 feet wide, but at low water it is reduced by shallow banks of sand and gravel to 600 feet. If a heavy swell is breaking, the entrance is then reduced to about 150 feet between breakers. The tremendous volume of water that flows into and out of the bay every 6 hours is forced through this narrow entrance, producing, at times, 12-knot currents.

Following a 1958 earthquake that registered 8.3 on the Richter scale, a massive tsunami wave shot water up 1720 feet up a ridge pulling all of massive trees and glacial boulders off the surrounding valley out of the bay, the scars of which are still visible. Three fishing vessels were anchored for the night when this massive wave, the largest wave in recorded history, came crashing upon them. Two boats and their fishermen were lost to sea. Another fishermen, Howard Ulrich on the F/V Edrie, rode out the wave, watching the eerie sight of tree tops snapping below his boat, and his frantic mayday was heard by the fleet in areas surrounding.

1958 Lituya Bay article

For days after the events of the July 9, 1958 earthquake the fishing fleet in the area was demoralized. Many could not shake the melancholy feeling that they could easily have been anchored in the bay at the time of the giant wave. And after considerable meditation, a few fishermen resolved never again to anchor in Lituya Bay. The fact remains, today as in 1958, that if one is going to fish the Fairweather Grounds sooner or later one will be forced into Lituya Bay by a blow. The fisherman is then subject to the mathematical odds that there will be another giant wave.

The Loran with the Fairweather Range in the Background.
The Loran captained by John Murray with the Fairweather Range in the background. The Loran was lost in an accident at sea in 2005. Murray survived and is now the captain of the Seabear.

The Good Friday Disaster

In 1962, the Co-op installed a freezer capable of handling halibut and salmon in Seward, Alaska. Production, prices and ownership numbers were at record highs for the Co-op, but nobody could have foreseen the upcoming disaster. On Good Friday, 1964, an earthquake that measured 8.6 on the Richter scale struck Alaska. The shaking lasted four long, terrible minutes and the epicenter was very near the Co-op plant in Seward. Massive submarine slides started 30 seconds after the quake hit and generated enormous seismic waves. All plant employees had fortunately gone home for supper, but the plant, which stood on a dock overhanging the water, was completely destroyed. Not a board left! Divers, hired to search the wreckage, only found a hole where the plant stood!! The entire Seward waterfront disappeared and the new shoreline was 300 feet inland from its pre-quake tide line.

As an “act of God” disaster, nothing could be recovered from insurance. The plant, however, did have flood insurance on a boiler. The Co-op thought it obvious that that the boiler washed away in a “flood,” but the insurance company had other thoughts. It was ruled that the Co-op wasn’t entitled to a single cent. In addition to a total loss, the Co-op now had to pay considerable attorney fees in their lost suit. One important caveat to being a fishermen-owned business: With ownership comes inherent risk that the fishermen bear, although this risk is borne across a cooperative of owners in our case. In a history of our Co-op published in 1980 by fishermen Francis and Donna Caldwell, The Ebb and The Flood, this chapter ends with a bitter but realistic note that says it all about fishing:

“To lose something, a 50-pound trolling lead today, an anchor tomorrow, once in a while a boat, or even a life, is common in the [fishing] industry. The sea gives, the sea takes away.”

During this time and in subsequent years, there was much discussion of dissolving the Co-op. But the courage of the board of directors at that time to keep the Co-op alive and solvent stands as a keystone in the history of the Co-op.

………….

The Sitka Plant

With the Good Friday Disaster in the backs of their minds, the Co-op’s Board of Directors proceeded with caution to build the fishermen-owned plant in Sitka, with construction beginning in November 1979. At the heart of the Co-op’s decision to forge ahead with the Sitka plant was its overriding concern for maintaining a top-quality product from ocean to market.

Sitka was chosen because of its proximity to salmon trolling grounds like the waters of Cape Edgecumbe and the edge of the continental shelf, waters rich with halibut and sablefish. Big overhead came out of fishermen-owners’ settlements and there was great discussion about how to allocate the costs of building the plant fairly to all owners. Nonetheless, there were 95 Co-op owner resignations in 1981 and 120 in 1983, as the Co-op was losing money to fund the plant. It took extraordinary sacrifice to realize this dream of having a fishermen-owned plant, and those fishermen with the courage to stick with the Co-op helped keep alive a ruggedly independent organization owned by and for fishermen with tremendous pride in the products they produce. This pride is at the core of who we are.

I recently spoke with Lee Krause, Board President at the time that the plant was built, and he noted that it was a busy time with architects and builders coming to Sitka to make the plant a reality. “I was in over my head. All I could tell them was I wanted cold ice. Our main concern in that time was to have our own plant that could take good care of us, where we could get cold ice, so we could produce quality fish.” Lee’s humble statement sums up just about the entire history of our Co-op: service for West Coast fishermen and a relentless commitment to quality.

Seafood Producers Cooperative plant in Sitka, Alaska
The fishermen-owned Seafood Producers Cooperative plant in Sitka, Alaska on a rare sunny say.

On this date in 1944, the legal contract for the formation of our fishermen-owned Co-op was signed. Celebrate with us. Use the following coupon code at checkout for $75 off orders over $300:

AKGoldDiamondAnniversary

Expires May 31st, 2019.

Thank you for being part of our history,

The Producer-owners of Seafood Producers Cooperative, whose products are available for home delivery at AlaskaGoldBrand.com.

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The Formation of our Fishermen-owned Co-op

On May 12th, 1944 the legal contract for the formation of our fishermen-owned co-op was signed. This May we’re going to celebrate our diamond anniversary by giving you our customers $75 off orders of $300 or more.

During this month, we’ll share with you the history of our co-op in several stories, starting today with the story of how West Coast fishermen would band together to form our Seafood Producers Cooperative. Thanks to the courage of these original pioneers in 1944, we are here today and you can purchase our fish for home delivery at www.alaskagoldbrand.com. Thank you for being part of our history!

The fishermen-owners of Seafood Producers Cooperative are some of the last producers of a pure, unadulterated wild protein caught using traditional fishing methods on this planet. And our co-op has been instrumental in preserving this unique way of life.

Primary producers of real food, particularly fishermen, have had a long history of being taken advantage of. Fishermen’s guilds started popping up well over 2000 years ago in the effort to protect fishermen from the whims of nature and markets. It is certainly possible that Jesus’s disciples formed part of a fishermen’s guild of a similar sort on the Sea of Galilee. All of these guilds and co-ops were formed with the intent to protect fishermen, but few have had the staying power of our co-op, which has been around for 75 years serving as a bulwark of the West coast fishing community because of a laser focus on quality products and service and serving the fishermen.

More than a way for fishermen to take control of the profits from their catch, our Co-op became a community in which fishermen banded together in order to make their own destinies.

It’s difficult to gauge the wake that our Co-op spurred on the West Coast fishing industry. Before our Co-op existed, fishermen had limited markets for their products. There were plenty of strikes among fishermen in southeast Alaska. Since our Co-op’s inception, there have not been any fishermen strikes in southeast Alaska. What our Co-op brought was a plant that the fishermen would eventually own themselves and the opportunity for fishermen to get more consistently fair prices. In other words, our Co-op became a way for fishermen to earn a living wage for their hard work of producing beautiful fish.

Our Co-op is an organization owned by fishermen, for fishermen. And it allows fishermen to wield their own future. If you speak with any fishermen-owners about why they joined our Co-op or why they’re fishermen, you will undoubtedly hear that they like being their own boss and being the captains of their own destinies. A co-op that the fishermen own with a fishermen board of directors made up of their peers that makes the tough decisions on setting our Co-op’s direction has made it possible for these fishermen to live their ruggedly independent lifestyle their own way.

Since its inception, producers have kept our Co-op alive with a rugged “share the pain, share the gain” mindset. With a sales office in Bellingham, Washington and most fishing operations taking place in southeast Alaska, our Co-op has deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, but there is something quintessentially American about our Co-op, which allows fishermen to be the captains of their own destinies. And that’s what makes our Co-op keep on keeping on.

Halibut Producers Cooperative Logo

When the co-op formed in 1944, it was the Halibut Liver Oil Producers Cooperative in the days before vitamin A was synthesized and was one of the largest producers of vitamin A in the nation. It later became the Halibut Producers Co-operative. In 1982, the Halibut Producers Cooperative Board of Directors voted to change the co-op’s name to Seafood Producers Cooperative to more accurately reflect the fish that the fishermen were catching and selling, as line-caught king salmon and coho salmon became the bulk of production

The growth of our Co-op has been filled with many learning moments. As an organization owned by ruggedly independent producers who make a living on the ocean, it is somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible to make all content. But when we as fishermen return from a long, difficult fishing trip out on the edge and pull into our plant in Sitka, it is our plant waiting to receive our fish. One of the reasons that our Co-op has survived and flourished is our strict adherence to Rochdale’s Seven Principles, which give direction to cooperative organizations. The other reason that our Co-op has flourished is that we have not lost sight of our quality-focused mission.

Quality is the keystone of our Co-op. This tradition of quality began with the very first fishermen’s annual meeting taking place in 1944. An expert was brought in to speak at length on how to improve quality. To this day quality is a pervasive theme in all meetings of the fishermen Board of Directors. Quality is so important to who we are because our organization is built on the pride we have in producing our fish for our company. But our co-op’s reputation built on quality doesn’t derive from just bleeding and icing fish correctly to produce the freshest quality fish, but also having a relationship based on integrity and transparency with our customers.

We really hope that you the enjoy the fruits of our co-op’s labor—you can order our seafood online for home delivery at www.AlaskaGoldBrand.com. Stay tuned this month for more stories on our co-op, including a story on the special place where we fish, and the stories of the actual producers that form part of our co-op, and more. Also, celebrate with us. Take $75 off an order of $300 or more of our Alaska Gold Seafood.

Use coupon code: AKGoldDiamondAnniversary

Expires May 31st, 2019.

Thank you,

The Producer-owners of Seafood Producers Cooperative, whose products are available for home delivery at www.AlaskaGoldBrand.com