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Wild For Salmon: Alaskan Wild Sockeye Salmon Run, Bristol Bay Alaska to Bloomsburg Pennsylvania

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Jenn & Steve '11 (9)

Jenn and Steve Kurian of Wild for Salmon

Have you ever come upon a couple where you conversed for an hour and went away thinking, wow, these folks are the genuine salt of the earth? I have. Meet Jenn and Steve Kurian of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Jenn and Steve are Wild for Salmon and so much so that this impressive couple, embracing life’s opportunities as they appeared, made the catch and sale of Alaskan wild sockeye salmon their family business selling to specialty stores, local Farmers Markets, restaurants, and through their Warehouse style building that runs along the main strip through Bloomsburg. The name of their business: Wild For Salmon

Each June, commercial fishing license in tow, Steve travels first to Bristol Bay, Alaska and prepares their 32′ fishing vessel, the R-J, seeing to the mechanical needs as the motor, pumps and coolant systems for what will become the Kurians living quarters along with two deck hands throughout the 6-week sockeye-fishing season.

Depending on the determination of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the season begins somewhere in mid-June and extends throughout the month of July.

Jenn who will travel a week later meanwhile coordinates the purchasing and flat rate packaging of the approximate 200 pounds of food that they will need during their stay. “The price of food in Alaska is extremely high, sometimes triple the price, some food items are also not easily accessible or the quality is not very good,” says Jenn “there is also no time to spend on food necessities once the season begins.”

Besides the food that Jenn will send up in transit, both she and Steve will additionally carry 50 pounds each. Foods from the winter hunt such as elk and venison as well as bacon will accompany the couple and the dried foods such as rice and pasta ship.

While seeing to rigging up the boat vessel for the season, Steve is also actively engaged in the conversation on the docks between the other lower forty-nine limited entry anglers  where only 2,000 permits are issued to participate in the Bristol Bay annual wild Alaskan sockeye fishing run whose boundaries consist of 5 separate rivers.

One of the necessary goals is joining together with a group. The groups consist of generally 4-5 boats, an extended family of sorts who all work together throughout the season, including identifying the best fishing spots. The group also serves as a bit of  a physical protective barrier as the salmon come through with boats jostling and bumping up against each other around the lines, sometimes propellers skipping over other fishers nets can cause the loss of a days fishing run. “It can get a little aggressive.” said Jenn

Throughout the wild Alaskan sockeye season run, the couple takes advantage of the continuous Alaskan daylight fishing about 8-10 hours twice per day, taking turns sleeping in the back of the deck at about 2-3 hour interims. “Generally there are two tide fluctuations.” said Steve. When the fish are running and caught, once netted into the boat, the sockeye picked up from the deck, go into a separate cooling area. When the Alaska Department of Fish and Game alert sounds, boats go to their holding areas where the fish are briefly stored before being flash frozen, packaged and sent to Pennsylvania.

The tide break is also the time when the Kurians and deck hands twice daily work on completely cleaning down the boat before returning to their designated location for the next tide that will bring in another run of sockeyes.

A summer off for Jenn as a former schoolteacher a few years back took her to Idaho with Steve who was doing his Master’s Degree internship with the forestry service. As luck would have it, the Kurians stayed at the apartment of a former Bristol Bay wild Alaska sockeye salmon fisher. The fisher invited the Kurians to join him on his boat the following summer, and befriending them, later sold them their first fishing permit. While embracing the opportunity of this new adventure, the Kurians have since purchased a second fishing permit toward the future and work hard throughout the year further developing their Wild For Salmon business.

In addition to whole sockeye salmon filet, salmon portions, and nova style (lox) salmon, the Kurians also send sockeye salmon directly from Bristol Bay to a company in West Chester Pennsylvania who then hot sugar smoke their Hardwood Smoked Salmon. They also make salmon burgers pre- made for the grill, hot Italian salmon sausage and smoked salmon spread.

Through their group Fisher Partnership, Wild for Salmon also sells a few other varieties of fresh caught wild Alaskan fish such as cod and rockfish. Bulk orders are available with Wild For Salmon and anyone can coordinate with local neighbors and friends for area delivery as they supply a number of buying clubs.

“Alaska is really committed to the quality of the sockeye fish that are caught and protecting the fisheries for future generations to come.” said Steve “Our Wild For Salmon business provides an excellent product that is both wild and sustainable. The nutritional value of salmon is very high and the taste is fantastic. We offer exceptional products at a common good price.” It does not get any better than that. You can Link to the Wild for Salmon Website here

Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, Thai Style

 I prepared this dish with a ‘Wild for Salmon’ Wild Alaskan sockeye filet for an impromptu dinner with neighbors one evening.  The vegetables I had on hand last minute determined the cuisine style choice and it went over well.  This dish is fairly easy to prepare. If you are not familiar with a couple of the ingredients below but are interested in learning, then the first step before you defrost your sockeye salmon in the refrigerator is to make a trip to your local International or Asian Market.  These inexpensive ingredients have a long shelf life and uses for many recipes.

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