June 29, 2014

Processing Fish–Continued

I still had another bag of fish to process, so I decided to devote the day to fixing the smoker problems and doing the fish.  After running to the library for an internet signal, and researching my smoker and controller, I went back to “camp” (a roadside stop on the Richardson Hwy (#4) about 4 miles south of Glennallen) to set up for the work!

After three of hours of experimenting with insulating the smoker, and tuning the PID controller, I was able to get the high temp enough to finish the smoking process.  It’s done in 3 stages, 120deg for an hour and a half, 140 for two and 1/2, and 170 for 2hrs.  A long process which put me several chapters ahead on “Black Sand and Gold” a book about the Alaska Klondike gold rush.  I’m particularly proud of my improvised insulation blanket for the smoker.  In true Alaska fashion, the cardboard came out of the dumpster at the rest stop!


It also had the effect of reducing the number of beers in the frig (funny, the smoking instructions online didn’t mention that). Oh, and yes, the fish are delicious!


First Day’s Catch in Alaska!

Well, after finally making it to Alaska about a week ago, I went fishing Thursday.  When I arrived at the river I wanted to fish for Kings (Chinook Salmon) the Gulkana was very high and muddy, not conducive to catch Kings (they have poor eyesight and need to be able to see the fly easily).  So, after sitting around waiting for the River to clear, with no results, I went down south to the Klutina River last Tuesday to scout.  And yes, folks were catching some Reds (Sockeye) down there.Combat Fishing 2

Klutina Reds-003As luck would have it, poured down rain all day Wed (not so uncommon up here, it’s raining again today July 1st).  So, last Thurs morning I was on the Klutina fishing for 7.  Got very lucky, in spite of losing seven fish, I had my limit of six by 8:30.

I would guess they weighed about 5-6lbs each.

I had walked quite a ways down the River to get away from the crowds above (Combat Fishing).  So filleted the fish right there where I caught them, bagged them, and through them in my backpack to carry out.

With the fish cleaned aKlutina Reds-002t the River, I proceeded to start processing.  What a lot of work!  I would guess that these three stuffed gallon bags of fillets weighed 15-20lbs!Klutina Reds-005

This large plastic tub is how I decided to “brine” them (a mixture of salt and brown sugar is rubbed onto the fish.  What you see here is two of the three gallon bags.  That wasn’t too bad, so into the fridge they went for an overnite soak.  The washing/cleaning off the brine was slow and a mess.  I started at about 9pm Friday and didn’t get to bed til almost 3 Sat morning!

Red Processing

Most of Saturday was spent 1st lightly smoking the fish (a couple hours at 120deg).  his gives then a bit of extra flavor once they are “canned”.  (ie, pressure cooked in jars).  I had trouble getting the smoker up to the temp quickly and keeping it stable once there.  (I had bought an expensive controller for that purpose, but it was not tuned correctly to my smoker).

Red Processing-003

Red Processing-002Red Processing-001Once smoked the fish need to be air dryed for a couple of hours minimum.  I ended up sitting next to them in a chair, nursing a couple of beers while waving my big kayak paddle at the attacking gulls (oh, and one eagle!)…but, no bears at least!

Another part of the process that seemed to be very tedious was getting the fish chunks stuffed carefully in the hot jars, and with only a small, short WalMart table, my back was killing me.

Red Processing-004

Anyway after almost a full day ordeal, I ended up with a dozen pints and eight half-pints of processed fillets!  But, I still hard almost a third of this first batch left, but that’s another story!

Red Processing-005Red Processing-006