A Wildfish Wild Salmon Primer

A Wildfish Wild Salmon Primer

At Wildfish Cannery, we want our products to change the way people think about - and eat - tinned seafood. Thirty years of wisdom, passed from one generation to the next, and the result is exceptional craftsmanship and flavor that have a habit of working their way into our mental gastronomy, to never be forgotten. But perfect recipes matter very little if the source isn't perfect too.

And that source is wild Alaska.  We’re proud to source our salmon from Alaska’s small-boat, community-based fisheries and the hardworking men and women who are the backbone of this vital economy (did you know seafood is Alaska’s third-largest basic sector industry, in terms of total job creation, behind only oil & gas and tourism?)

Wild salmon is a vital subsistence food source and we understand the importance of managing our fisheries responsibly right up to protecting our oceans and waterways and sustainably harvesting our stocks—quite simply, because we need it to survive. When you choose wild Alaska salmon like ours, you’re also supporting our fisheries, which ensures we can continue to manage them responsibly…. You can see where we’re going with this.

We believe, as our founder did, that the wild seafood we are smoking and preserving is one of nature’s most perfect products. So as we round the corner towards the summer pre-season, let’s revisit the 4 species of Pacific salmon you’ll find in the Wildfish pantry  (and should consider adding to your own, too!).

King Salmon

For generations, our local hook & line commercial salmon fishermen (called “trollers”) have been hitting the water every July 1st for the first King salmon opening of the summer. A low-impact fishery you might dub as “artisanal,” Wildfish Smoked King Salmon comes from trollers that can be seen skimming the waters surrounding Prince of Wales Island that first week of July.

Troll Caught King Salmon

King salmon spend up to 7 years in the open ocean, which helps them develop their Omega-rich flesh and a texture that is tender, yet firm. They are an important source of nutrition to both humans and wildlife, and their sheer abundance during the early summer months makes for a lot of hard work and good eating in Alaska. Add a touch of Wildfish smoke and you’ll get a decadent flavor and richness and a marbling of healthy fats making it a guilt-free treat. You will find three smoked King varieties in the Wildfish pantry throughout the year: the beloved Smoked King, Smoked White King, and Smoked White King Belly (a rare Limited Release treat!). 

Coho Salmon

Next comes Coho salmon, caught by a variety of harvesting methods, mainly hook & line in July and August, and drift net in September. This second-largest species of salmon is known for its delicate flavor and firm texture, and is often considered the best salmon for grilling! Or maybe the grill is just always on because neighbors are constantly dropping by with a filet of fresh coho to share...

Coho Gillnetting on the F/V Julie Marie 

Coho salmon are generally smaller and younger when caught by trollers in deeper ocean waters, whereas drift-net fishermen set their nets later in the season in hopes of landing older coho in the 10-15lb range, moving in schools towards their spawning grounds.

And Wildfish Cannery Smoked Coho has stood the test of time. In the early days, founder Phyllis Mueller would sell a few hundred cans or so a year to the cannery's visitors and fans across the country—and today’s recipe hasn't changed much from its original form. It's tested, tried and true, spanning generations. 

In our shop you will find our traditional Smoked Coho, but we highly recommend you try our unsmoked Classic Coho, too. When it's available, our Smoked Coho in Birch Syrup is a savory-sweet variety flavored with natural Alaska Birch Syrup. 

Sockeye Salmon

There’s much to love about Sockeye salmon. Here on Prince of Wales Island, you’ll find entire pantries full of this red gold—jarred and canned, smoked or “plain pack,” and always a gallon Ziplock or two filled with dry-smoked red strips. And many of us complement this shelf-stable bounty with chest freezers full of frozen sockeye salmon filets, carefully harvested in just the right amount to sustain us throughout the winter. 

Sockeye Salmon with Smoked Sockeye

Sockeye salmon possesses more protein and Vitamin D per serving than any other species of wild salmon. Our Smoked Sockeye is the perfect ready-to-eat meal any time of day, particularly during winter when the immune-boosting properties are most revered. 

Sockeye is a relatively docile salmon that sustains itself on a diet of mainly krill and plankton (as opposed to other, smaller fish,) and as a result it rarely “bites,” making it immune to the otherwise tempting commercial "hoochies" the trollers use for Kings and Cohos.

So by mid-summer you will find drift-net and subsistence set-net fishermen alike hugging the beaches of Alaska’s famed sockeye spawning grounds. From the heart of Bristol Bay all the way down to the waters of our very own Klawock Lake, Alaskan’s eagerly await July and the return of sockeye salmon, the “local’s choice.”

Sockeye salmon supplement a huge part of subsistence fishermen’s protein in Alaska, whether or not you also have a commercial fishing permit, and is a pantry staple and a must-buy for every tin lovers pantry.


Sockeye Salmon in Smokehouse

Pink Salmon

While Alaska's King salmon may be world-renowned, it’s Alaska's Pink salmon that feeds the world, and August is peak Pink season here in Alaska. Pink salmon—known colloquially as “humpback salmon” or “humpies”— are the most abundant wild salmon species from Alaska, which also makes them an economical choice. Purse seine vessels and their crew (like those pictured below!) work the inland waters across the state, targeting schools of Pink salmon. 

The smallest salmon species (with an average weight of only 2-3 pounds) Pink salmon have rosy pink flesh and a light, delicate flavor, and our Smoked Pink is the perfect choice for seafood lovers looking for a milder smoked salmon flavor. Don’t be fooled by its small size and ready availability, though: like it’s larger, more admired cousins, Pink salmon is still an excellent source of Omega-3s, protein, selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Smoked Pink is an economical choice and the perfect protein for dips, salmon patties, or the star of your favorite salad or grain bowl. 

Purse Seiner Crew with Big Set on Deck


Fred Wood

I know that one should appreciate all the different types and sorts and flavors and textures but for me your tins of Sockeye are quite simply head and shoulders above the rest.

My recipe for ANY time of day – Open a tin of your sockeye salmon, open a packet of your favorite plain crackers, open a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc ( preferably French!)
Spread salmon onto cracker…..ENJOY !

Ain’t a chef in the world can beat that !

All comments are moderated before being published.