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August 2002 Issue
Sockeye Salmon and French Potatoes
by Philip R. Gantt
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Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

Our trip to Alaska was quite a success. As fate would have it, my daughter Julia caught a larger fish than me, a beautiful 62.5 lb. king salmon! What's up with that anyway? It was the largest salmon I have ever seen, caught on July 4, 2002 in the Kenai River.
Not long after Julia caught her fish, Rich caught one of similar size. Both fish were about 52 inches in length and nearly 30 inches in girth. Both fish were male.
We also went halibut fishing, and although we didn't get any large halibut, we did get limits of 2 each to yield over 80 lbs. of fillets that we brought home. Most of the halibut were in the 20 lb. range. Many people have told me that the large halibut are not good table fare as the meat tends to be stringy and dry. So, it may take a creative cook to prepare the dinner from a large halibut. Halibut tacos perhaps?
During our stay, we lodged in Mark Glassmaker's cabin on the Kenai River. Our timing for the sockeye salmon was excellent, and this year was a banner run for the sockeye. Literally thousands of sockeye were swimming by every day during our stay. They were jumping everywhere and we took advantage of the situation.
It took some of the guys a little while to catch on with the fishing technique, however when they did, limits of 3 sockeye per day were the rule.
Even I caught one!

I would like to spend a few minutes of your time to tell you about the sockeye salmon in Alaska. The sockeye is considered the best eating salmon in Alaska. Once you try it, you will know why. The flesh is a deep red and very rich in flavor. Sockeye feed on plankton and are not as as oily as the king or silver salmon that feeds on other fish and squid. Sockeye are far more numberous than king salmon, but not nearly as large, averaging about 8 to 10 lbs. in the Kenai River. Kings in the Kenai average about 40 lbs. The Kenai River is known the world round for having the largest salmon on the planet, the largest being caught on rod and reel being over 97 lbs.

Sockeye can be prepared in any manner that you might cook other salmon. It's great for fish and chips, and particularly good on the BBQ or served teriyaki style. It also dries well for salmon jerky.

The Alaskans are allowed to dip net for sockeye every year, keeping 25 for head of household and 10 additional fish for each additional member of household. If you visit a beach near a river or an access point on the river during dipnet season when the sockeye are running, you will witness people gathering their winters supply of food.

Unfortunately, with the influx of farmed Atlantic Salmon in the marketplace, the market for wild fresh Alaskan salmon in the US has declined substantially. The market is so bad, in fact, that many commercial fishermen in Alaska have given up their business to pursue other means of income. Last week, one person told me that the commercial fishermen were selling sockeye salmon wholesale for $.50 per lb. I find that hard to believe, but with the large number of fish this year, it could be true. Supply and demand. I know that last year the wholesale price was about $1.65 per lb., varying throughout the season, plus or minus 15 cents.

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