Sometimes the best foraging is right at home–in this case, in the very back of the freezer. I was digging around for razor clams to cook for Christmas dinner and came up with a long-lost package of hot-smoked king salmon bellies from 2015. September 2015, to be more exact, meaning they were more than a year old. I thawed ’em out and, incredibly, they were delicious. Perfect. Still firm, still dripping with fat, still smoky and salty and awesome.
And looking at the date, I remembered fishing Willapa Bay with my good friend Sweeney, and how the pelicans posed on pilings outside the harbor that morning, and how the sky turned black with sooty shearwaters in the evening. And how we had to scratch to find our kings, and how stoked we were when we put a couple nice ones in the box. Amazing what you can find in the back of the freezer.
Just home from what has become one of my favorite annual traditions–a late-summer grocery run to the southwest Washington coast with my good buddy Sweeney. This year it was especially pressing for me, as our local king season was cancelled and our freezer was running low. As you can see above, it was a success.
We fished with a big front moving in from the Pacific; the barometer dropping like a rock. This lowered expectations for fish, made for a gorgeous sky, and brought thousands of shearwaters–I mean a black line of birds from horizon to horizon–in to greet us. I think I took and posted almost the exact same photo last year, but the sight of these birds and their vast numbers never ceases to blow me away.
Mostly, though, I look forward to this trip for the time to hang out, fish, shoot the breeze and go on crazed, late-night searches for food in the middle of nowhere with Sweeney. That’s him looking nautical as he scouts the tide rips ahead.
Fishing wasn’t easy, but thankfully, with two days of getting after it, we managed to scrape up a nice box full of kings and a bonus silver as well. The weather felt strange after months and months of bluebird skies, but it was good to be out in it, in a beautiful place. Thanks for making the time, Sweeney. Much appreciated.
Staring at our empty freezer, smoker and fish fridge was doing little good. So in a last-ditch effort to make up for the “lost” harvesting time we spent in BC (lots of harvesting, nothing hauled home), and with our local king salmon season closed, I had to head to the Southwest Washington coast. In all reality, it was mostly just a good excuse to spend some time on the water with my great friend Sweeney, but stacking a few fish wouldn’t hurt, either.
We hit the jackpot. Absolutely crazy good fishing with hordes of nice silvers, a few fat hatchery kings, and very liberal local catch limits. Plus, calm seas, no crowds and good company, all on familiar waters…couldn’t ask for a better late-season harvest. A great couple of days. And a huge relief to have a fish box stacked to the top.
And then, the reality of processing all that fish set in. But I’m stoked to do it. The first batch already came out of the smoker, more brining now, ikura (salmon caviar) curing and a couple of fresh salmon meals under our belts. Just warmed up the new vac-sealer, too. A lot of work, but so many great meals ahead. Did I mention the relief? Whew!