Goodbye Cook Inlet, Hello Bristol Bay!

Emily Lints2 comments

photo(1) The Northland fishing Upper Cook Inlet 2013.

 

Kyle has flown north to Homer, AK to start boat work for the 2014 season.  With summer right around the corner we wanted to give everyone some updates:

  • This winter we sold our Upper Cook Inlet Drift permit and bought a Bristol Bay Drift permit!  (We've long considered switching to the Bay and decided to make the plunge with permit values approaching each other and the political scene in Cook Inlet getting more and more volatile . . .)
  • We will still be offering some great Small Scales Scrumptious Sockeye Shares, but our distribution and exact product will be a little different this year.  (More details to follow shortly.)
  • On the personal, non-fishy note, our little girl Maggie is almost 1.5 years old and we're expecting another munchkin due end of September.  Rita is happily living with a new non-kid family, Dakota passed away last summer and Sassy is going strong.
As always, thank you to all of our great customers.  We love hearing from all of you about how much you're loving your salmon!!

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Enjoying Your Salmon?

Emily Lints6 comments

image-1 Maggie and her King Salmon cousin

 

Almost all of our customers have already received their Small Scales Scrumptious Sockeye Salmon Shares.  We hope you're really enjoying the fresh fish!

We have about ten shares left to sell, send your friends our way.

One customer made a particularly scrumptious sounding meal: salmon fillets marinated in olive oil and fresh rosemary, lightly grilled and then topped with a peach bourbon sauce.  Mmmmmm!   We are officially done fishing.  Kyle and JP fished one final day this last Monday in search of a strong Silver Salmon run.  The fishing report was 'too calm and too clear' (often rough water makes it harder for the fish to see the net).  After catching only 15 fish for a long day of fishing they decided that the fuel and time expenditure didn't quite sketch out. Kyle's birthday load! Kyle's birthday load!

 

Here is a photo of Kyle a couple weeks ago on a particularly good day of fishing.  The load was mostly Silver Salmon (Coho).  It was a pleasant surprise for late season fishing, especially since it was Kyle's birthday.  All these fish were caught in one set, over a pretty short period of time.  Fun and exciting! Overall it's been a pretty good season.  Last year was so good that it's hard to compare, but the price increase at the dock helped to offset the difference in our catch.

We really appreciate your business and hope you appreciate your fish!

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Ninilchik Harbor

Emily Lints
image Two nights ago the Northland spent the night in the Ninilchik Harbor.  As you can see the harbor gets pretty jam packed with gillnetters and starts to look a bit precarious at low tide!  Ninilchik is between the Kasilof River and Homer, near the south line of the fishing area.  It is a tidally restricted harbor, meaning that the entrance and exit is only accessible at high tides.  Most of the boats fishing out of Ninilchik are Russians from one of the nearby settlements.  These settlements started originally as a land grant to Old Believer Russians escaping religious persecution in Russia.  These days there's thriving Russian communities on both sides of Homer and they are hard working fishermen! Today was a good solid day of fishing and Kyle and the crew put up a good load of direct market, top quality, fish for our great customers.  The period was extended until 11pm this evening, so the fishing continues!  Tomorrow is a mandatory closure but within the next week we'll know if the run materializes to be a good return like projected, or if it is simply a little early.

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Fishing Facts

Emily Lints2 comments

The Northland reported an "exciting day of fishing today", catching about 1,400 Sockeye Salmon.  Kyle said that the fishing was pretty hot right off at 7 a.m., then slow most of the day and then strong again before closing at 7 p.m.  If the run of salmon comes in strong we can hope for some good back to back fishing in the next weeks.   photo-1 One of the many BEAUTIFUL Kenai Reds and HANDSOME deckhand Jake.

 

A number of customers have asked us general questions over the past years about our drift gillnet fishing operation.  Here's an attempt at starting to publicly answer a few of them.  Let us know if you have more questions!

  • Length of our boat:  The Northland is 32 feet long.
  • Size of our net:  Our net is 3 shackels long, each shackel is 50 fathoms and each fathom is 6 feet-- for a total of 900 feet in length.  It is 45 meshes deep (diamond shapes of net), each mesh being 5.125 inches high-- for a total of 230.6 feet.  However this depth is a little misleading because it is never fully stretched out while fishing.
  • Number of boats in Cook Inlet:  There are 600 permits out there and about 400 boats fishing.  A boat can double up their permits and be allowed to fish one more shackle and other permits are not fished.
  • Number of Salmon in Cook Inlet:  This varies year to year, but last year 6.4 million salmon returned to Cook Inlet.  The fishery was regulated for an escapement, or upriver return, of 1.2 million fish.  The remaining fish were divided amongst the user groups- commercial (drift and set gillnet), sport and personal use.
  • Number of days we fish in a season:  If there are a lot of fish they let us fish more and vice versa.  This generally ranges between 16-30 fishing days.
  • Percentage of our catch that we sell directly to customers:  Again, it all varies but last year we sold a little under 10% of our catch directly to customers and the rest was offloaded and sold to our cannery.

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The Fish Are Swimming!

Emily Lints1 comment

The Upper Cook Inlet Salmon fishery is underway.

photo 3-1 With four days already fished the season looks like it has the potential to be a good one.  The Kasilof River already has a return of over 125,000 sockeye, which is the highest return this early in the season ever recorded.  One never knows how the season will end, until a while after it's over and the cannery actually pays up, but it's always fun to get excited.  Prices tend to be highest for the first few deliveries, until the market gets flooded with fish, so we will wait a little before putting up our top quality direct market fish. photo 1 On the quality front, Kyle has spent the last few weeks installing a Refrigerated Salt Water (RSW) system.  With the RSW we are able to pump chilled sea water (32-35 degrees) into the fish holds to constantly keep the fish cold.  This means no more ice and the constant temperature should even improve the quality of your fish! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the fun and family and historic front, we spent last week across Cook Inlet at Snug Harbor celebrating Gramma Margie Mullen's 93rd birthday and Summer Solstice with 30 family members.  Snug Harbor was one of the biggest canneries in Cook Inlet from about 1930-1970.  What a stunning place!  It was a great location for the first two fishing openers because it is down near the southern line of the fishing boundary, where the early season fish first show up.  The bear viewing, clamming, paddling and fishing were fantastic- especially with such great company.

photo

Kyle, JP and Jake are finishing up two back to back days of fishing.  Extra days of fishing, beyond the scheduled Monday and Thursday schedule, are allotted based on the number of fish up the river.  Yesterday was good early season fishing for the corridor (a restricted area near the beach) with over 300 fish caught and the mid-day report for today was pretty good with about the same number of fish.

Thanks for reading.

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As Soon As It Starts It Ends

Emily Lints

Good Looking

 

Only a few weeks ago we were just finishing boat work, beginning to fish some slower days, waiting for the fish to show up, diligently putting up our top quality direct market fish.  Suddenly the fish started coming in big numbers! Kyle, the crew and the Northland fished for 12 days straight.   Two really great days helped to make the season a great season for us- one where we deckloaded (filled all the hatches and had to bag fish on deck) and one with a nice boatload (below hatches.)

Click here for a short video of the deckload.

A number of pretty good catching days have rounded things out.  Last night was the first night that Kyle, Jake and JP slept off the boat and they're recuperating after their long push.  During the last two weeks they were only able to get a few hours of sleep a night in between all their duties; by the time the fishing period ended at 7 or 10pm, they ran the boat back into the river (which is tidally dependent especially with a slower boat), waited for an off load at the dock around 3am and then soon headed out again to be on the grounds to set the net out again by 7am. We'll fish again on Monday to see what's still out there and sooner or later pull the boat out of the water.  It's always remarkable that on a big day some 2,600 fish are caught and now we're down to about 50 fish a day (with less Sockeye each day and more and more Humpies), with our low point at the beginning of the season being 7 fish!  When the fish come they come!  That's why we really try to put up our direct market fish before the peak of the run hits, so that we can manage the quality the best. We've sold pretty much all the direct market scrumptious salmon we put up (THANKS!). If you're still interested about fish this year, let us know and we can see if there's a little extra once we've delivered fish to everyone.

A few snapshots:

Fish Pickin' The Gear Out, Waiting for Fish Icing the Beauties Kyle's View From the Flying Bridge, Looking for Jumpers Late Night Sunset

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The Season is Underway

Emily Lints

We've been out for two days of fishing.  The fish are starting to show up, the boat is running great with some new improvements and our new crew is great.  This year JP (John Paul) returns and Jake Beaudoin joins us.  (Yep, it took two strong young men to replace Emily's deckhand skills ;). Two of our favorite salmon spawning ground research tools: packrafts. On the shore of Skilak Lake, headwaters to the Kenai River.

Check out our Facebook page or click on this link to see some fun pictures from the trip we took before the season began.  It was a bit of a 'research' trip because we explored two of the main glaciers that drain into the rivers where our fish spawn, the Tustumena and Skilak glaciers.  Now you REALLY know where your fish come from!

We have just a handful of orders left.  

Thanks to everyone for already placing your order!

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Salmon Education

Emily Lints3 comments
A frequent question we get from our customers is 'how many species of salmon are there in Alaska and which ones do you catch?'  So here's a brief salmon lesson: There are five species of salmon in Alaska and we catch all five.  We mostly catch Sockeye salmon and rarely catch King salmon (because they run closer to the beach).  One day this past season we caught every specie and attempted to photograph them while underway.  Here's a King Salmon, a.k.a. Chinook.  He has spots throughout his body and much larger teeth than the other species.  King average 20lbs and have a succulent flavor and firm texture.    Here's a Sockeye Salmon, a.k.a. Red.  Her tail fin does not have silver in it and her scales and eyes are an average size.  Sockeye average 6lbs and have a rich flavor, firm texture and deep red flesh color.  (Sockeye are what we sell to you!)    Here's a Coho Salmon, a.k.a. Silver.  His fin has silver in it, his eyes are smaller and his body is rounder than the Sockeye.  Coho average 12lbs and have a delicate flavor with firm orange-red flesh. Here's a Chum Salmon, a.k.a. Keta, Dog, or Silverbrite.  Her tail displays some silver color, the body is slimmer than the Silver and her body tapers off quickly in front of the tail, unlike the Sockeye.  Her eyes are larger than the Silver.  Chum average 8lbs and have a mild flavor and pink meat color.  Here's a Pink Salmon, a.k.a. Humpy.  His scales are very small, while spawning he develops a hump behind his head .  Pink average 3lbs and have a mild delicate flavor, soft to medium texture and rosy pink-colored flesh. Those are the basics!  Now see if you can identify each specie in this group posed photo.

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Oddities of the 2011 Season

Emily Lints1 comment
Looking back on the 2011 Salmon Season,

we reflect on a few 'oddities':

-Connor Duffy displaying his 'Uni-Suit.' What year did Grundens make these anyway!?-Swimming in a cold sea, using the flying bridge as a swimming bridge.                    (Click here to see the video on YouTube.) -A tattooed fish . . . can anyone explain these markings?-We realize that the reel doubles as a carnival ride! (You can also hear Kyle's token laugh in the background)                                                  (Click here to see the video on YouTube) -We catch a questionable fish.  The dock crew guessed Atlantic Salmon, but we're not convinced.  Maybe a hybrid?-Kyle grows a fish eyeball! Arrrggghhh!  Upcoming posts that customers have requested:  A lesson on salmon species and an informative post about just how sustainable our fishery is.  What else do you want to know?

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Anchorage Delivery!

Emily Lints

Ode To Our Customers

Anchorage salmon lovers,

do not fear.

We have not forgotten-

your fish is near!

Methow salmon afficionados,

you are to come.

We will venture south soon-

and bring you some.

Anchorage pickup info:

Come pick up your Scrumptious Sustainable Sockeye Salmon Shares
from Small Scales Seafoods!
When: this Friday, August 19th from 4:30-6:30pm.
             (although not preferred, appointments can be made for early the next morning or later in the evening if necessary) 
Where:  REI parking lot, Anchorage (1200 W Northern Lights Blvd)
            *Look for an older white and turquoise Ford F150 pickup truck parked in the back.
What to bring and know: Check or cash for $225 per 25 lb. share.  Each order will be packaged in a wetlock, non-insulated box.  If you have a long drive bring a cooler to put your fish into.  I will have the fish in freezers in the truck until you pick them up and will bring extra gel packs.  Each share is filleted and packaged in approximately 25 individual packages.
Questions?:  Email or call and I'll get back to you asap.

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