Getting to Know Your Sockeye Salmon

Chris - February 23, 2015

Shaun knows fish. Spending a couple of hours with Shaun at a pickup is like browsing an encyclopedia of BC fishing. If you don’t know Shaun Strobel, he and his wife Sonia co-founded Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery (CSF). Otto is Shaun’s dad and they both still fish for salmon every year along BC’s coast. For people like me and our members, that means we can learn a lot about our seafood from Shaun. What follows is my attempt to capture a small taste of it.

With the fishing season still a few months away, members are still taking advantage of last year’s bounty. That’s most true in the case of our sockeye salmon.

2014 was an amazing year for Fraser River sockeye. It was one of the top five returns since the mid-70’s. Sockeye salmon from various runs were delivered to members over last season but the August-September late-run Fraser River sockeye is what topped up our inventory for the off season. It’s worth noting that our CSF’s ability to stock up and pay fair wages for this large catch was made possible by our loyal members who signed up all the way back in the fall for the 2015 season.

Shaun and Otto caught the sockeye we have available now in the Johnstone Straits off the northeast of Vancouver Island. The area is a great place to intercept the salmon long before they get to the mouth of the Fraser River and their subsequent 500 kilometre journey upriver to the Shuswap Lake and the Adams River spawning grounds. The Fraser River sockeye often split around Vancouver Island when they return from their northern two to three year ocean journeys with some taking the inside route past Port Hardy, Alert Bay and Campbell River. The rest swim the length of the west coast of the island then around the south end and back up through American waters. For reasons that are known only to the salmon, they all took the inside route in 2014, which proved a boon to BC fishermen.

Shaun and Otto fished Johnstone Strait over the course of five weeks in August and September and caught 3,479 sockeye salmon (they record every single fish). They used gill nets with spacing that ideally suited the size of these salmon. Gill nets are particularly good at limiting the amount of non-targeted species that are caught up in their nets since smaller fish go right through the spaced holes and larger fish bounce off. Special revival tanks are used onboard the Omega V to resuscitate and then release non-targeted fish when they are caught up in the nets.

The salmon were then brought back to Vancouver in the icy, slush tanks of the Omega V. Our processor, Rumi Hokubay and her small crew of multi-generational, traditional Japanese fish cutters gutted and filleted the sockeye by hand. Fillets were vacuum-sealed and blast frozen, making them sushi-grade and safe to eat raw. They were then professionally stored at extremely cold temperatures for optimal quality. With that, they wait for members to order them at a pickup.

So for the next few months, when you share a Skipper Otto’s sockeye fillet with a friend or family member, be sure to regale them with everything you know about your Johnstone Strait sockeye and the men and women that got it to your plate.

Chris - February 23, 2015


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Getting to Know Your Sockeye Salmon

Chris - February 23, 2015

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