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Want to make immediate contact? Call or text Malena at (907) 957-1007 or Eric at (907) 518-4158.

You can also send an old fashioned email to schoolhousefish@gmail.com.

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Petersburg, AK
USA

Salmon seasons & the tidal life

fish tails blog

Schoolhouse stories and troller talk from Southeast Alaska.

Salmon seasons & the tidal life

Malena Marvin

The last few days, like all days in coastal Alaska, were all about tides. Eric rose at 4:30 am on Monday to bring our boat over to the harbor "grid" on high tide, so that when the tide went out we could do pre-season work underneath. The day before, I waited for high tide so I could hop on my paddle board in the tidal slough across our house and paddle out through the harbor to the Inside Passage. Work and play run on the tides here in Alaska, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Like the tides, the salmon we catch and bring to you have a rhythm, and it's a rhythm we must follow. Most Americans are used to a different cultural rhythm, 9-5, five days a week, and grocery stores full of all food available all the time. Thanks to farmed salmon, Americans expect fresh "salmon" any day of the year. But the real deal is seasonal, and customers who know their fishermen get the unique privilege of learning to think like a wild salmon.

Wait, how did we get that boat up there?! We tied up at high tide, and waited for the water to go out so we could get to work. You can see how dramatic our tidal shifts are by looking at all the other boats and the whole harbor below us!

Wait, how did we get that boat up there?! We tied up at high tide, and waited for the water to go out so we could get to work. You can see how dramatic our tidal shifts are by looking at all the other boats and the whole harbor below us!

One of the things we want to do with our business is invite you into the rhythm of our lives and get you on wild salmon schedule. While there is some salmon trolling (for the elusive and delicious king salmon) in the winter and spring, most Alaskans catch their salmon (including kings, coho, and sockeye) in the summer and fall. State biologists hold salmon "openings" according to when the different species of fish are running and the type of boat and permit (we have a troller, which have different timed openings than gill netters or seiners). All of these distinct "fisheries" are carefully regulated by Alaska to target the appropriate part of the salmon runs at the right time. Different species run at different times and in different places all over the state. Toss in all the other seafood Alaskans catch commercially - crab, shrimp, halibut, etc. - and it makes for a well-orchestrated symphony of boats coming and going to fish their various openings around the rim of the North Pacific.

The tidal changes in the "narrows" outside our harbor make for swift water if you hit them at the wrong time. Paddlers learn to time their outings with the tides to make sure they are working with the current, not against. 

The tidal changes in the "narrows" outside our harbor make for swift water if you hit them at the wrong time. Paddlers learn to time their outings with the tides to make sure they are working with the current, not against. 

This April, Eric has just wrapped up his first fishery, herring roe-on-kelp, which is timed with the spring herring run. For many Alaskans - whether  human, bird or marine mammal - the arrival of these tiny, spawning, silver fish means spring has sprung. Next up for us, Eric is preparing to go longlining for halibut and black cod on a friend's boat (ours is set up for salmon trolling). He'll go on a few longlining trip this year to fill his "quota", and we'll cut halibut cheeks when he gets home for our Fish Mix boxes. We'll do some limited king salmon trolling in May when there are openings near our house, but trolling for kings will start for real in June, when Eric and I will go out fishing together as much as possible. While cohos will come around in mid-summer, we think the best quality coho salmon are caught in late summer and fall, so that's when we'll be fishing for the coho that have become a freezer staple for so many of you. We'll also save halibut and rockfish fillets for our Fish Mix boxes while we're salmon trolling.

Of course we can keep salmon in the freezer and dole them out gradually, and we will, but we want you, our valued customers, to know when we're going to be catching and selling the freshest fish. So get with the salmon seasons and check out our 2016 fish list and salmon schedule. Sign up to receive updates and we'll let you know what's fresh. Advance orders help us plan our season and prioritize the fish that you want, so let us know what you're thinking, and we'll make sure and fish direct for you. 

Old Grandmother Tide waits for no one, and so the heat is on once the tools come out. Whether things are going well or not, barnacle-busting and wrenching around must be wrapped up before high tide sneaks up again!

Old Grandmother Tide waits for no one, and so the heat is on once the tools come out. Whether things are going well or not, barnacle-busting and wrenching around must be wrapped up before high tide sneaks up again!