The Fish of Alaska

sitka alaska sustainable fishing

Sitka Lake

When you are invited by the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) to participate in a Seafood Culinary Retreat during which you will go fishing to learn about Alaska’s wild and sustainable fishing industry, you’ll sample amazingly fresh wild Alaskan seafood and stay on a private island, it’s hard to say no. The people who invited me didn’t know it, but Alaska had always been a place I was dreaming to visit one day.

Of course, I was tempted.

So I said yes-and I traveled to Alaska.

And was amazed by what I learned and discovered.

Reminded of the power and natural beauty found in Nature.

This post is divided into seven pages, so make sure to click on the page numbers at the bottom of each page to read the complete story. I’m hoping this will make it easier to enjoy long posts like this one.

Alaska fishing sustainable tartine gourmande

Alaska

I had always imagined that in Alaska, I would find atmospheric landscapes, with snow-capped mountains hiding behind thick layers of fog; glaciers that take us back to ancient times; forests where ever green trees stretch high up in the sky; infinite bodies of water; abundance of fish, and authentic faces that witness of the connection to the earth.

They were all there, surrounding us.

talon lodge alaska

The last time I fished happened in France with my school friend Patricia, when she and I caught une truite (trout) in the small étang (pond) near the village. I was ten years of age then, and remember how proud I had felt walking home with my catch in hand.

Needless to say that I felt pretty lucky to be part of this new fishing adventure! And in Alaska nonetheless!

alaska fishing tartine gourmande sitka

Located at the northwest tip of the North American continent, Alaska is the largest state in the United States. In 1867, Americans buy the land from Russia. In 1959, Alaska becomes the 49th American state with its own constitution.

I learned that Alaska is the only state in the nation with a constitutional mandate that requires sustainability of its fish and wildlife resources.

Which means that, fishing is highly regulated–to be able to fish, you need to obtain a fishing license; each person has a quota determining how many fish can be caught each day.

In return, this ensures that resources will never be depleted; there will always be more fish to catch in the future.

Alaska fishing sustainable tartine gourmande

Alaska fishing sustainable tartine gourmande

We were eight curious guests and two chefs, a jolly group who flew to Sitka before being taken by boat to Talon Lodge and Spa where we were generously welcomed and treated!

salmon shark

Salmon Shark–Fishermen

Naturally, I came back with many images and memories of this unique experience.

And these twenty-two reflections…..

I learned that:

    #1 Wellington Boots are a must. I told you P., a girl always needs her Wellies! I was so glad for the pair I brought with flowers on them. We joked that they were going to attract more fish, or star fish (beautiful ones too), depending on who is holding the poleJohn, you were a pro at it!

    #2 Weather is all relative when you travel to Alaska: I learned that the key is to wear layers and have a raincoat handy at all times. With hats and scarves. Fishing in Alaska is the real thing!

    #3 The thought of that cup of flavorful butternut squash soup, which we enjoyed for lunch when we were at sea, is still making my mouth water.

    #4 No matter how much I enjoy eating fish, every time we caught one, I felt a pinch in my heart.
    #5 Deep sea fishing is not meant for the light hearted. The ocean can be (it really is!) rough; the weather is Scottish too–yet, someone out there must have been watching for us since it didn’t pour, and we were even able to catch sight of gorgeous spells of sunshine. They looked beautiful as they danced onto the water.

    #6 There are five species of Alaskan salmon: King; Sockeye; Coho; Keta, and Pink. They are abundant throughout the temperate zones of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Alaskan salmon are anadromous, which means that they spawn in fresh water with the young migrating to the sea where they will eventually mature. Later in the cycle, the adults return to their natal stream to lay eggs and die.

This cycle of life is just amazing to watch.

    #7 I had forgotten how much I love to eat a piece of black cod.
    #8 You better be an early riser. Fishing starts early in the morning.
    #9 A region where it rains a lot translates into incredibly lush and green vegetation–reminding me of parts of New Zealand where I hiked. The morning hike we took one day along the Indian Reserve River unfolded it all for us majestically.
    #10 Staring at infinite deep blue bodies of water made me feel incredible peaceful inside.

Fireweed
    #11 I am such a girl! I could not help but fall for the pretty Alaskan wildflowers we could find everywhere.
    #12 While on the water, I could have taken shots of those same peaks surrounded by water, fog, and clouds over and over, without ever thinking it was the same scene.

    #13 Inviting two chefs (especially when they are so entertaining!) along is an excellent idea because this means that, all in one place, you are able to learn how to fillet a fish, make gravlax, smoke fish, while you eat scrumptious foods, and have fun cooking together (I know Dan and Patrick, we all ended up watching more than cooking. For once, what P. my husband often tells me made sense “Why would I do it if you do it better than me?
    #14 I knew Alaska would look a bit surreal. It really is.
    #15 I don’t know why I don’t make my own gravlax more often.

making gravlax home

Gravlax

Crab we caught–This is Helen and Greg

A Walk in the Forest

Rescued Bear Cubs–Pet Farm near Sitka
    #16 Cooking outside is the best feeling ever–we did this every night, and it feels energizing!
    #17 No matter where I travel, I am always giddy with excitement if we are able to stop for a visit at a farm. You cannot take the French country girl out of me!
    #18 My opinion about crab remains untouched: King crab is still my favorite.

Salmon Swimming Up the River

Dan is proudly holding a halibut
    #19 Grilling fish bellies is the best idea ever! These were absolutely delicious!

Fish Bellies

Our Catch of the Day–
Canary Rockfish, Yellow Eye Rockfish, and Black RockFish
    #20 Bringing massage therapists in a remote lodge for the after fishing of the day is the cherry on top of the cake. Especially when they give massages literally almost outside. Combined to the soft sound of the water breaking onto the beach, the result was that I fell sound asleep.

Bait

commercial fishing boat alaska

Commercial Fishing Boat

    #21 I understand why people keep wanting to return to Alaska.
    #22 I am still unsure when it will happen, but I know that next time, I will take Lulu and P. with me to embrace the beauty found in Alaska.

Lulu will ask about bears and their cubs (and Russian dolls, I know, I could not resist bringing her a few!)

While P. will look for a peaceful spot to sit by the water to observe salmons swim up the stream–he can do that for hours!

I will be happy with everything else that I will find there.

Especially berries I can pick; edible plants we can forage; and wild Alaskan seafood to cook with and sample.

This is a Red Snapper by the way.

Breakfast

Talon Lodge, Sitka

Different Varieties of Shrimp

One of our Fishing Boats

Thank you Marla for snapping this picture for me!

Thank you Larry and Bertram for inviting me on this journey. We were quite a group!

And I really had a terrific time!

Disclosure: The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) hosted me on this Seafood Culinary Retreat. However, this post only reflects my personal thoughts and opinion.

Posted in Uncategorized | 62 Comments

62 comments

  1. Gorgeous images – love the first one, full of mystery, and the first one in the mosaic, the wild thyme, I can almost smell its fragrance, if I close my eyes.

    Brilliant fish tale, words and images. Thank you!

  2. La première photo est superbe, on dirait du National Geographic!
    Cela donne vraiment envie! Merci!

  3. What an amazing trip you had! I’ve been dreaming about a trip to Alaska for a few years now. Fishing in Alaska – whoa! Thanks for sharing your beatiful pictures and thoughts.

  4. Great post, great photos. Feels like I’m right there. Alaska is definitely on my list to visit.

  5. You’ve captured it all so poetically. It was a beautiful trip and a highlight for me was getting to know you Béa. I hope our paths cross again someday. GREG

    PS I love that photo of Helen and I. We look so darn Alaskan!

  6. What a treat to travel to Alaska through this post! Your photography absolutely blows me away, Bea, and your words are just as charming as you are. So, so lovely.

  7. Oh Bea!! This is delightful ~ all of it. Stunning images. I am so happy that we shared this special and unique journey together. Until next time…..lots of fun lined up for the future, yes?!

  8. It looks absolutely magical, Bea. You’ve captured the essence of the Pacific northwest perfectly – it brings back so many memories of the camping trips my parents used to take me on to the Queen Charlotte Islands in B.C, just south of Alaska. If you ever get a chance to visit them, do not hesitate to jump on it! It’s such a special part of the world – and I now that I have moved from Canada to New Zealand, I agree with your comparison as well!

  9. Nice story, great photos, like National Geographic, a family favorite! So glad you’ve had so many opportunities to spend time in the north western part of the country lately. Breathtaking, yes? Can’t imagine living anywhere else.

  10. How lovely, I’ve been trying to convince everyone to go to or to take me to Alaska, not for the fish (I’m vegetarian) but for what you’ve shown in these photos. It looks so magical there….

  11. Such a beautifully captured trip. I was in Alaska a long time ago, when I was about 9 years old, but it was amazing. My uncle, who lives there, chartered a tug boat for a week which took us to utterly remote parts of the country – we fished constantly, watched pods of orca, grilled crabs on deserted beaches until interrupted by bears… your pictures truly take me back!

  12. We just took our first trip to Alaska this summer and loved it!! Your fishing trip looks way more fun. That state just has endless possibilities. Beautiful pics.

  13. wow, look at those trees! and that water! and that food! you are one lucky girl. thanks for sharing!

  14. your photos are extremely beautiful – thank you for sharing with us…one can dream of visiting this enchanting place

  15. I LOVE the story you told of this trip with your photographs. Looks like a trip of a lifetime and fun too, especially with Greg there. I was just on a food press tour with him; he’s my oldest food blogging friend. I love seeing the differences in how you both captured the story.

  16. Béa, you have the art of making people feel peaceful and happy with your writing!
    Thanks for this beautiful post.
    Don’t stop writing :-)

  17. Gorgeous photos as always! My husband and I went to Sitka for two weeks in 2011 to visit his cousin who lives there. We fished every day, including the morning we flew home and we were having so much fun that we forgot we were leaving and almost missed our flight! Love Sitka so much! We’re hoping to go back with our son when he’s old enough to really enjoy it. What a special opportunity to go and stay at that gorgeous lodge. You are living the dream! :)

  18. Great post about Alaska. Alaska was not on my list of places to visit, but you made me change my mind. The pictures are beautiful and I like your comments. As for your phrase: “Why would I do it if you do it better than me”. My husband says the same thing to me for my cooking. He does not cook anymore sadly. Hehehe
    See you in Montreal Béa.

  19. Absolutely amazing! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos that capture an immense and yet so personal place.

  20. che meraviglia!!!!! thank you for making me dream I was there with you all

  21. I do not have words left to express ho beautiful this all looks. I’ve been working the whole summer and this 10 minutes I spent looking at your photos and reading your experience were just refreshing and exciting, almost like going on holidays. Almost, being there would be just of of this world! Thank you sharing this experience with such vivid images, you managed to capture the real essence of it.. wow!

  22. Bea what a breathtaking post! My family and I travelled to Alaska for a cruise last summer and it was everybit as magical as you’ve captured it here.. I’m so thankful for these incredible memories that you’ve evoked for me with this post… absolutely lovely. Thank you!

  23. Wow & wow! It all looks amazing and delicious! Beautiful photos.
    7 pages of photos and they are all great….I tried to compliment with 3 different superlatives…ha ha… 4, if we count the wow…

  24. C’est magnifique, tout ça! I loved Alaska, too. A complete return to nature. Thanks for bringing up good memories. Et maintenant, j’ai faim!

  25. What an amazing trip! I have never been to Alaska but after reading this post I am ready to jump on a plane! What a beautiful and soulful place! You photos are gorgeous!!

  26. superbe reportage. je connaissais un peu l’alaska vu à travers des reportages à la télé et le NatGeo mais c’est au delà de mes espérances. J’aime ces montagnes qui plongent dans la mer. et l’assiette de gravlax me donne des envies de saumon. terrible

  27. Quelle magnifique opportunité, en effet ! Je suis Canadienne et à mon retour, je compte bien aller visiter cette superbe région, bien que ce soit un peu loin mais je suis sûre que ça vaut mille fois le déplacement ! Merci en tout cas de partager ces moments et ces photos avec nous !

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  29. These are such gorgeous photos! You have a natural eye for composition and framing. I’m very keen on visiting Alaska in the near future.

  30. Lovely lovely photography! I’ve lived in Anchorage, Alaska the past 2 1/2 years and the summers are soooo glorious. The winters are beautiful but looong and cold. Thank you for the wonderful photos of your fishing trip. We haven’t made it down to the Sitka area at all and it is breathtaking.

  31. I was blog hopping and kinda bored tonight…and then I stopped here. Oh, la, la!! Gorgeousness all around. I admire and so envy you!!

  32. Béa, I’ve been back to this post over and over again. Your pictures have left me wondering and dreaming about how restorative it must have felt being in the Alaskan outdoors, how interesting it was learning all about my favorite fish and how delicious those simple meals enjoyed outside were. Really thank you for sharing.

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  34. This was such an awesome post to read along with all of those amazing photos ! You were definitely blessed being able to attend the Culinary Retreat. This all brought back great memories of some time spent on the west side of Vancouver island and fishing up north from there ! Thank you :-)

  35. “No matter how much I enjoy eating fish, every time we caught one, I felt a pinch in my heart.”

    Such a simple statement that is so true to so many humans. Yet, they do not go one step further and ask what that pinch means; nor do they take the final step and realize it is conscience, asking to please abstain.

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  37. What an incredible travelogue – images are mind blowing!
    What camera was used?

    Where & when is the next one?

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