Thursday, June 19, 2008

Super Thursday!

We just got back from Olga/Moser Bay after an absolutely fantastic day! Carrie is going to tell you all about it, but first - if you are reading this in Kodiak we are going to be on the radio tomorrow so call in sick to work so you can tune into KMXT all day and listen for us!

Second, many people do not know this, but Moser Bay is as beautiful and precious as Olga Bay, and the fishermen and their families that live there are some of the best people on the planet, and their fish are fantastic. We don't mean to give them the short end of the stick...

Here's Carrie to tell you all about our day out on the south end of the island:

Today was the day I have been waiting for since the first time I ever saw a Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon. We left Kodiak Island this sunny morning bound for Olga Bay in a Beaver Float plane. What a day it was…truly a once in a lifetime experience! Yes we saw Kodiak Brown “Grizzly” Bears, Seals, Otters and an inquisitive Silver Fox, but by far the star attraction was the pristine waters of Olga Bay and the silvery ‘red” Salmon known as “Sockeye.” Our hosts for the day were Bill and Ann Barker, their daughter Heather and their lovely family. We were in awe of the natural beauty of Alaska which stretched out in front of us for miles. It is really “the last frontier”…..

We landed smoothly on the Bay, the crystal clear water like glass glistening in the early morning sun. We could see Sea Urchins, Starfish, Sea Anemones, edible Kelp and the occasional flash of silver salmon darting through the water. After a hearty breakfast of Ann’s delicious baked sweets, we all bundled up for our FIRST adventure….checking the gill net lines for Sockeye and “pulling” up the pot for FRESH Alaskan King Crab!

A very happy Seal was enjoying breakfast on a Sockeye, so we went and checked the Crab Pot. This was far from “Deadliest Catch”, but an adventure that all of us “city dwellers” had never even knew existed! Local families can catch six King Crab per season for food, so we were honored that the Barker’s had generously shared their Crab with us. Two boats pulled up the line holding the pot from the extreme and chilly depths which was baited with fish carcasses. When the pot surfaced, there was a very large King Crab, a few Spanner Crabs and a big Cod. We put the Spanner Crabs back and let go of the Cod while the Crab was pulled free of the pot. Unfortunately, the rise from the Bay floor was too much for the Cod to handle and after numerous attempts by Heather to see him swim freely away, he was brought on the boat and added to the dinner menu….

The Crab was huge with mildly snapping claws and we happily posed for pictures!

King Crabs from the Bering Sea are processed on board the big crab boats, so it is extremely rare to see a live one unless you are on a crab boat.

The gill nets were full of Salmon, so Mary, Heather and Bill carefully removed them from the net, broke the gill to bleed them and then immetydiately put them in a “slurry” of crushed ice and sea water . Each fish was handled with such detail and respect.

Brandon readied the Crabs and cooked them in a big pot in the shed using the water from the Bay. We had a massive feast of fresh King Crab for lunch….the taste was incredible, so clean and simple, pure heaven…all they needed was melted butter which Ann had in heated pots for us to enjoy!

Putting on our gear once again ( life jackets, rubber boots, coats, slickers and waders), we left the warm home of the Barkers and headed out on the bay and surrounding inlets to see the “weir”. The weir is where it all happens, there can be no fishing unless the men that man the weir say so. The weir is a row of tripod shaped fences that cross the Dog Salmon Creek. The weir has metal gated that are pulled open so the salmon can swim upstream and spawn. The setting is idyllic and the closest thing to purity, this was the way it must have been when the explorers first came to Alaska. The water of the creek is fast moving and clear. The banks of the creek have high grasses and moss, it is a prairie setting with Magpie nests in the trees and big American Bald Eagles fling by. There are two weirs, east and west. Brandon was here on the east weir checking on the health and sustainability of the salmon stocks. It has been a rough start of the year, Spring came late to Alaska (and the rest of America) and there is still snow on the mountains and a crispness in the air.

The men sit on the weir and open the gates and count the salmon that pass through by hand. In the age of automation, the fish are still counted by hand…this is what SUSATAINABLE SEAFOOD means. This is “Ground Zero” for Salmon.

If there is not enough escapement, there is no fishing. All the families who fish this region honor and respect the system since it insures future generations that there will be fish. Brandon lives in a small house on the property and has names for all the Bears that stop by for a ‘free meal” on the weir. We didn’t see them, but you could feel their presence out in the open marshes. We walked the marsh and saw many edible native Alaskan flowers and berries including the highly prized Nagoonberry plant.

As we headed back to the Barker’s, we saw a mother “Sow” Grizzly Bear and her two cubs walking the shallow lagoon waters looking for a nice fatty salmon to eat…It was our first bear sighting and everyone was in awe of the size and majesty of this beautiful animal. The bears ran into the forest once they heard the Bald Eagles feasting on the hunt that the bear had obviously stored in the woods. We came back exhilarated and ready for our salmon feast! But first…a trip to Seal rock. Sarah is going to tell you all about that adventure since I stayed behind to taste wine and make the cod. Ann had the Socekye clearly in hand, it was coated in a brown sugar marinade and the natural fire was being prepared…

Just then, Bill saw the family of Bears back on the flats and he pulled out the scope for all of us to see them up close and personal. It was like a postcard…..the big brown bear “mama” with her massive girth lumbering through the shallows with her two babies in tow. One of the cubs was larger than the other and they all walked in a row. Hard to believe these sweet faced soft looking beauties are the most feared animal in America. They look so vulnerable walking around, but they are safe in the sanctuary of Kodiak Island Refuge! We watched them until they once again headed for the woods and we headed to the huge dining room table and Sockeye Salmon! We were joined by the other families and fisherman/fisherwomen who live on the bay for this feast. It was a wonderful gathering of friends, some of the hardest working people you would ever meet.

They live in natural splendor and they bring to our table the most beautiful fish. I left Olga Bay with a renewed sense of what life is all about. CN


Moser Bay Paul said...

Its was good to see an old friend again even for a short time. Mary the pig died!!! Matt well see that it is taken care of. Thanks for mentioning the other bay.

Neil said...

Greetings to the Olga Bayers! Reading Carrie's description of her day with the Barkers is bringing back a flood of amazing memories - I wish I could be there!

Oh yeah, anyone seen my wife? She told me a week ago she was heading out to the store and I haven't seen her since...

Say hey to Gabe for me!


Moser Bay Paul said...

Neil we think that we saw your wife. She was boarding a float plane for Kodiak late yesterday afternoon. Hope that you find her soon. Missed the entertainment this time. The Moser Bay gang