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Togiak Salmon – As Fresh As It Gets!

by Pat Yorek
Director of Meat and Seafood

I’ll be the first to admit that on many occasions there’s a fine line between work and play in my role as the director of meat and seafood here at Lunds and Byerly’s.

Take for example a recent “work” trip I took to Alaska to get an up close, first-hand look at a new salmon we’re thrilled to be now offering in our stores. Joining me on the trip was Fabian Kotz, our meat and seafood manager at Byerly’s St. Louis Park. It’s great when we can have staff from our stores join us on these trips so they can share there experiences and deeper expertise with you.

We flew to Anchorage (courtesy of Sun Country Airlines) and then boarded a small prop plane and headed to the southwest corner of Alaska to the Togiak River, which is located 70 miles from the outlet of Togiak Lake to Bristol Bay.

It’s here where literally hundreds of thousands of Pacific salmon will return to spawn over the course of four months. King salmon runs begin in mid-June and the fishing is out of this world through late July with fish weighing up to 50 pounds! The Togiak is quite possibly the best king and silver salmon river in Alaska. Better yet, this fish is flown in fresh and arrives at our stores on a daily basis. In most cases, Togiak salmon is in our stores within 48 hours of being caught!

My primary focus during this trip was to learn more about the Togiak fishing source and hopefully lock down a long-term Alaskan Seafood partnership with Copper River Seafood, who is responsible for a very large portion of the best quality Alaskan seafood in Alaska, to supply our stores with nearly all of our Marine Stewardship Council-certified Alaskan salmon and halibut.

This agreement will harbor us exclusives in our market and to some of the best fish in the world at great prices! In addition we purchased a large off-season supply of salmon and halibut for this coming winter at incredible prices.

What has always attracted me to Copper River Seafood (CRS) is the way they go to business. They have intentions to lead the industry in sustainable seafood and believe in the culture of the native people and their lands.

During my time in the Togiak village, I witnessed several acts of a true partnership between the Togiak natives and CRS. Shortly after arriving in Togiak, three of the natives were at the beach waiting to unload salmon. The boom truck was busy helping another boat owner unload their boat when another boat was trying to unload so they could quickly get back to the river to continue fishing. As we stood there, someone from CRS rolled a large tote down to the beach by hand, jumped into 3 feet of water (shoes and all) and helped the ladies quickly unload their fresh salmon.

What’s helpful to understand is that there are few sources of income in Togiak. For most of these folks, their entire income is made during a relatively short fishing season. They then hope to stretch that money out until the following year. The good news is that Copper River Seafood is paying the fisherman significantly more for the salmon than another plant in the village.

On our second day in Togiak we were in the CRS office when one of the fishermen called to report his boat motor had blown up. CRS quickly purchased a new $5,500 motor and they were installing it the next day. To witness these types of interactions first-hand provided further proof that we are partnering with yet another company that shares our core values here at Lunds and Byerly’s.

The Togiak natives and CRS graciously shared their work place, their cultures, their free time and their lives with us during this trip. We fished with them, went on some four-wheeling adventures and even had the opportunity to see bears and foxes.

I hope you’ll pick up some fresh, wild Togiak Sockeye Salmon fillets the next time you’re in one of our stores. I know you’re going to love them and hopefully you’ll enjoy them even more now that you know a little bit about this beautiful area of our country.

Video Recipe: Pesto Salmon
FoodE Expert Paula Gerlach shares a quick and easy way to prepare Salmon or Halibut using only a few simple ingredients.
Watch video >