Fishermen of Bristol Bay: Wil Claussen

Fishermen of Bristol Bay: Wil Claussen

Growing up landlocked in Colorado, I never spent much time near the ocean, let alone imagined I would end up as a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay. I recently returned from my second season, and I can’t think of many things in my life I feel this connected to. Hard work and long days, beautiful scenery, catching people’s dinner, and being a part of a unique and competitive community, there are so many layers to being a fisherman and these are only a few. 

I got into this industry after moving to Washington on a whim and becoming fascinated with the boats while visiting Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle. The rigging, shiny hulls and intricate nets were captivating, I needed to find a way onto a boat and eventually I did. A close friend mentioned to her dad that I was interested in working in Bristol Bay which ultimately led to my start as a deckhand on the F/V Anny Joy.  Cold-water surfing, heli-boarding, commercial fishing, they all require one thing in common – an ability to hone your focus under pressure, and perform. That fleeting moment is something that has become a slight addiction for me and I knew I could find it on a fishing boat. 

I’ll never forget my first season in Bristol Bay. Our captain decided that we would be fishing the Nushagak river, and another seasoned crewmember turned to me and said “The Nush will turn you from a boy into a man, I hope you’re ready.” Really helping my already rattled and overwhelmed confidence, right? It was brutal to say the least. The rain never seemed to stop and I nearly lost it trying to hold on to the few hours of sleep I could get during peak season, while bouncing so hard in rough seas, I thought I was going to hit the bunk above me. This was the moment where I drew the internal question of, “what am I doing here?” A moment that, looking back now, was a turning point for me, but not in the way you would think. 

It took a return trip to Seattle to realize why I was REALLY in Bristol Bay, one that I could have never known until now. Despite the intense working conditions and lack of sleep that pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, it was the bigger picture that I immediately missed within a week of being home. The hard work is just part of it, and is something each Bristol Bay fisherman must embrace, but there are so many other things that bring so many people together for the same reason. Comparing your catch over the radio with other boats, sharing meals and getting through hard times with your crew bring you close enough to feel like brothers. We take a stand against Pebble Mine and sustainably harvest this incredible resource that has nourished communities for many years. Becoming an Alaskan Fisherman quickly went from a paycheck to a form of merit. I couldn’t be more proud of what I do and that is why I continue to return each summer. 

Throughout my time in Bristol Bay I have fished alongside Steve Kurian, Captain of the F/V Ava Jane and owner of Pride of Bristol Bay. At the conclusion of the season, we were on our way to the Naknek airport in an old Ford truck, sharing our passion for fishing and talking about our plans after we get home. He mentioned to me that he was seeking someone to fill a position at POBB, and after hearing what he had to say, I quickly jumped on the opportunity. Fast forward a few months, here I am sharing with you my journey of becoming a fisherman and business developer for Pride of Bristol Bay. 

Commercial fishing has now come full circle, not only am I catching the fish, but helping to build a sustainable, community-driven operation that ships the highest quality sockeye directly to your door. It is an incredibly rewarding experience for me and I am thrilled to be able to share my story here as well as my passion and love of salmon and Bristol Bay. 

 

Roasted Veggies and Salmon

MUSTARD MAPLE SALMON WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES

INGREDIENTS

VEGETABLES:

4 to 6 Potatoes  (about 4 oz.), washed and cut into pieces

2 medium Zucchini, thick-sliced

2 medium Yellow carrots, peeled and sliced

2 medium Orange carrots, peeled and sliced

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper

SALMON:

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

2 Tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1 Tablespoon poultry seasoning

2 garlic cloves, minced

4  Alaska salmon fillets (6 oz. each), fresh, frozen or thawed – purchase from Pride of Bristol Bay here.

Recipe by Bruce Bush, Bushes Bunches Farm, Palmer, Alaska.

DIRECTIONS

VEGETABLES:

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Place cut vegetables in a large zip-top bag; add oil, salt, garlic powder and pepper.  Seal bag; turn bag over several times to coat.  Spread vegetables evenly onto a large baking sheet.  Roast in oven for 15 minutes.

SALMON:

1. While vegetables are roasting, whisk olive oil, maple syrup, mustard, poultry seasoning and garlic in a small bowl. 

2. If using frozen Alaska salmon, rinse fillets under cold running water to remove any ice glaze.  Pat dry with paper towels.  Coat salmon with mustard-maple mixture.

3. Remove baking sheet from oven; turn vegetables over with spatula, then move vegetables closer together, making room to add salmon.

4. Place fillets on sheet; return to oven.  Cook additional 15 minutes for frozen salmon or 10 to 12 minutes for fresh/thawed, just until salmon is opaque throughout.

5. To serve, portion one-fourth of the vegetables with a salmon fillet.

** Recipe from alaskaseafood.org**

Cooked fillet of bristol bay sockeye salmon

Direct to Door opens Monday 9/23

A reminder for you! 

Our Direct to Door program will be open for orders of 2019 Bristol Bay sockeye portions and fillets Monday, September 23rd. After another successful fishing season, we are ready to offer the high quality sockeye you have been waiting for. Stock your freezer with our 20 lb. case (or save a little room for ice cream,) with our NEW 10lb. case. Whichever option you choose, both are shipped directly to your door for FREE!

We have also been working closely this year with our processor, Leader Creek Fisheries, to make significant improvements on the durability of the packaging of our products by increasing the thickness of vacuum packs and reinforcing the seals (more on this coming soon).  We remain dedicated to providing the freshest, highest quality salmon delivered from our nets to your door!   

Be on the lookout for our newsletter announcing the launch on Monday. If you don’t already subscribe, you can sign up at the bottom of our homepage to begin receiving our most up to date information, recipes and news from Bristol Bay! 

Cheers!

The Folks at Pride of Bristol Bay

Summer Recap- Our 2019 season in Bristol Bay

The fishermen of Pride of Bristol Bay saw a busy, successful season! 

“Patience is the word of the year.” 

Most people will never know the intensity of working on a gill netter in Alaska; it is a unique and exciting experience! We wanted to give you our take on the Bristol Bay season aboard our summer home to shed some light on our dedication to sustainability and quality in our product. 

“Patience is the word of the year,” said Captain Steve Kurian of the F/V Ava Jane as he reflected on this year’s Bristol Bay salmon season.

Many of you who fish for fun may be familiar with this feeling, but on the commercial grounds it can feel like it all happens at once and that no patience is required. Well, that was not the case this year as the weather was “hot, dry and flat” according to the fishermen. This change in situation required captains and crews put in extra effort to seek out the fish and steadily pick their way through the gear towards a successful season. 

Most bay fishermen enjoyed a lack of rough weather this year, but the fish follow those patterns as well. If the Bering Sea blows a strong wind into the river system, the fish certainly come with it. When there’s a light, consistent breeze, the fish make their way to their spawning grounds upriver from the fishing districts as always – just at a bit of a slower pace. As the Alaska General Seafood – Naknek beach boss, Joe Stewart put it on the final KDLG Fisheries Report of the year,

“It was a great season,” Stewart said. “Record number of fish, very steady, not the big waves of fish like usual.“ That was the experience on the Ava Jane this year, which served the new guys very well. This way, there was a bit more time to learn the ropes and get their sea legs.

Pride of Bristol Bay is grateful for the fish that came through as well as the local community who supported the team when the boat had a brief, but significant electrical breakdown. Yet again, patience was the word of the year. The boat was towed into Naknek by another member of the fleet (a tender) and fixed within just a few days. Thankfully, this occurred early on, and she was back in operation on June 26th. 

On a bay-wide level, the returns of sockeye are encouraging for ocean health. The Bristol Bay watershed saw a total run of 56.3 million salmon return to the river system this year. The harvest was the second largest on record, distributed in five river systems and closely monitored by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. Again, this year saw another strong run in a world of much uncertainty. The weight of Pebble Mine, and the disappointing summer news about backroom (or Air Force One) deals, certainly weighed on the summer, but we are encouraged by an uptick in mobilizing around the issue in the community – noting more t-shirts, flags, and stickers rocking the bold “No Pebble Mine” logo. 

Thanks to all of you who share our dedication, and for following along with this issue on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We see you working to spread the message to your friends and family.  Finally, we thank you for your patience as we found our own sea legs over the past year. Keep an eye on our social media as we share more about summers lived by the wind, tide and fish!  

Why Our Salmon: Premium Grade

Every summer, there are 1400+ boats that fish commercially in Bristol Bay. However, Pride of Bristol Bay is a part of a unique, dedicated fleet of fewer than 100 boats – and their fishermen consistently produce the highest quality, fresh-frozen, wild Sockeye salmon. Since 1994, this dedicated fleet has upheld the highest standards and the most premier fishermen.

When the salmon are caught, they are removed from the nets using slides/trampolines to reduce bruising. During this process, crew members bleed each fish by hand. Once bled, the Sockeye salmon is placed in refrigerated holds of 33-degree circulating seawater. The handling practices are designed to preserve the catch’s quality and pure nature. In turn, this guarantees unblemished, rich-tasting, firm flesh, wild Sockeye salmon at its very finest! Every 10 hours, the salmon is offloaded into a larger crab boat for immediate tender.

Once the salmon is at the processor, it is quickly filleted, flash-frozen, and vacuum-sealed with cutting edge processing technology; this process captures the flavors of Bristol Bay. Once packaged, our wild Sockeye salmon is ready for you to cook, create, and savor Bristol Bay upon delivery directly to your door.

For more information, sign up for our newsletter! You’ll receive an update when our direct to door program launches.

Pride of Bristol Bay planked salmon

Cedar Plank Grilled Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon with Sweet Potatoes

SERVES 4
PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOK TIME 15 minutes
INGREDIENTS

Cedar planks (available in seafood section of supermarket) with enough surface area for salmon
4 Alaska Salmon fillets (4 to 6 oz. each), fresh, thawed or frozen
Olive oil spray
1 Tablespoon fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) favorite herb for salmon (dill, thyme, rosemary, etc.)
Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
4 large sweet potatoes, sliced lengthwise into wedges
1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin

DIRECTIONS

Soak cedar planks for 1 to 2 hours (or overnight) submerged in water.  Remove and pat dry.

Heat grill to medium heat (400°F).  Rinse any ice glaze from frozen Alaska Salmon under cold running water; pat dry with a paper towel.  Spray cedar planks and salmon with olive oil spray.  Place salmon on planks; sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.  Place sweet potatoes in a bowl; spray with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper, to taste.  Toss to coat.

Place cedar planks and potato wedges onto grill.  Cover and cook about 3 to 4 minutes; turn wedges over and continue cooking until potatoes are soft and cooked. Keep warm.  Cook salmon 12 to 15 minutes, just until fish is opaque throughout.

NUTRIENTS PER SERVING

350 calories, 10.5g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 27% calories from fat, 91mg cholesterol, 33g protein, 33g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 277mg sodium, 36mg calcium and 1700mg omega-3 fatty acids.

Recipe via Alaska Seafood
Recipe by Ryan and Sara Hall.  
Recommended side dish: Massaged Kale Salad with Goat Cheese

Sara’s Tip: We found slicing the sweet potatoes vertically (into coins) helps keep them from falling through the grill grate.  For larger “coins,”  microwave them briefly before grilling so they cook through without burning on the outside.  Of course, sweet potato fries can also be roasted in an oven preheated to 400°F.  Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.