How to: Fresh Salmon Processing

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How to: Fresh Salmon Processing

was written by Russell Porsley , 2019-05-13 17:26:33

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processing fresh salmonHow to process fresh salmon

Processing your fresh salmon at the end of the day can be a daunting task, especially if you have a lot of other things to do. However, it is probably the single, most-important thing you can do to ensure quality. A few things need to happen on the river and at home to ensure your catch is preserved and ready for the freezer.

One thing I have noticed from my many years of guiding for salmon is how important it is to take care of your fish once you have landed them. Gilling your fish immediately and letting the salmon bleed out ensures that the meat will not be bloody when filleting them at the end of the day. I like to land the salmon in a net, then bonk them.  You don’t want them flopping around while trying to use a knife to gill them. Personally, I like to use a pair of heavy-duty scissors and cut both sides of the gills.

Once you’ve dispatched and bled the fish, keeping your catch cold throughout the day is very important. If I am on the shore fishing, I will keep my fish on a stringer in the river, and if I am fishing in a boat then my catch is in a fish box so I can dump fresh water from the river over them ever hour. Whatever your method, keeping the salmon cold makes the meat stay firm and helps prevent spoilage; the other benefit is your fish will be easier to fillet.

Before filleting your salmon at the end of the day you, should be really meticulous. I will wash all the blood off the outside side of the fish, try to wipe most of the fish slime off and then fillet the fish on a clean surface. Once I fillet one side, the fillet immediately goes in a bag and does not touch any water or debris. Washing your salmon fillet off in the river is a bad idea; it can wash some of the oils out of the meat and could potentially add bacteria onto your fresh salmon. If you get blood on the meat when you are filleting, just wipe it off with your hand or a towel. The next step is to get your fresh-filleted salmon on ice until you can process it. Keeping fish cold is very important so it doesn’t spoil. I generally throw some ice in a cooler in the morning and when I get back it will be nice and cold for your catch.

Once you’re home, the real work begins. The sooner you can process your salmon and get them in the freezer, the better. I usually have a large, clean table; a vacuum sealer and quart-sized vacuum sealer bags that I use to package the fish. If you can have an assembly line of people to help it speeds the process and gets your fish in the freezer faster.

First, I cut my fillets into meal-sized portions. I like to pat the fillet dry before putting it in the vacuum seal bag. I center the fillet in the bag before vacuum sealing because that ensures it gets vacuumed all the way around and seals correctly. After the salmon fillets are sealed in individual bags, I inspect each bag to make sure it is holding a good seal. Once you have done your inspection it is important to lay all packaged fish flat, in a single layer if possible, so it freezes quickly. The faster it freezes, the better the quality.  Laying the fish flat will help ensure that it stays vacuum-sealed. A single layer will also freeze faster than if you have several layers of fish on the rack.

This is only one way to preserve your fresh salmon, but it has been very effective for me. Following this process will cut down on the amount of spoiled or freezer-burned fish you might otherwise have. It seems like a long process, but when you go to open a package of fish to cook in the winter, you will thank me.

 

Nigel Fox has been partners with Jeremy Anderson and Nick Ohlrich at Alaska Drift Away Fishing for over a decade. He is a lifelong Alaskan and has been fishing on the Kenai River since he was a young boy, and each year he learns more about the intricate world of catching trophy fish on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. 

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Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is the largest national forest within the United States. It obtained its name from the Tongass Clan of the Tlingit native people and goes back to 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt established the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve. In 1908 the forest had been re-named and expanded and today the 16.9 million-acre Tongass National Forest runs from the Pacific to the vast inland ice fields that edge British Columbia and from the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island to Malaspina Glacier five hundred miles to the north. Approximately 80 % of Southeast Alaska is in Tongass and with it’s thousands of islands, fjords and bays the national forest has 11,000 miles of shoreline. Tongass’ huge coastal rain forest includes towering hemlock, spruce and red and yellow cedar. The undergrowth underneath themassive conifers is composed of young evergreens and shrubs including devil’s club, blueberry and huckleberry. Moss and ferns cover the ground, and lichens adorn numerous trees and rocks.

Wildlife is plentiful all through Tongass. Sitka blacktail deer and it’s 2 main predators, wolf and brown bear, are located here. Black bear are common as well as mountain goats and some moose. Marine mammals seen along the coast line consist of Dall and harbor porpoises, seals and humpback, minke and orca whales and an increasing population of sea otters. The water teem with fish such as halibut and all five species of Pacific salmon. More bald eagles live in this area than in any other place in the world. Though home to the world’s largest temperate rain forest, nearly half of Tongass is covered by ice, water, wetlands and rock. It’s most well-known ice floe is the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska’s “Drive-in glacier” since it is just thirteen miles from down-town Juneau along a paved road. A boat trip from Petersburg or Wrangell can bring people near the face of LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier on the continent. Just thirty miles north of Yakutat is Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world and very easily Alaska’s most energetic. The 76-mile-long glacier has crossed Russell Fjord several times, lately in 2008. The rip tides and currents that flow in front of the 8-mile-wide glacier are so powerful they lead to Hubbard to calve almost continuously. The Tongass includes nineteen wilderness areas, including the 545-sq-mile Russell Fjord Wilderness, as well as Admiralty Island National Monument and Misty Fiords National Monument. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the general area surrounding Haines and Skagway aren’t part of the national forest.

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A Vacation In Tongass National Forest in the State of Alaska