World Oceans Day is on June 8, and the theme is “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.” The United States does an excellent job at managing its fishery resources, and among the coastal states, Alaska stands tall.
Abundant – that’s the word I would choose to describe Alaskan salmon.
How can such a popular fish be called abundant when so many other fish in the world have been overfished? Alaska has conservation embedded in its state laws and everyone involved understands the importance of protecting its natural resources. Salmon return to Alaska every year to spawn and keep the sustainability of the stocks intact. No one is allowed to fish until enough fish have traveled up the rivers to ensure an equal return of salmon years later. The availability of salmon can vary from year to year. Some years are great and others the returning stocks are small and very little is allowed to be harvested. Lots of factors affect the salmon stocks, and Alaska uses scientific data to determine how much salmon can be harvested. It is a model that I believe all other fisheries should look up to.
Alaska is home to five commercially important species of salmon. King salmon is the largest and least abundant of the group. It is highly prized and will cost you the most at the Hy-Vee fish market, but it is definitely worth it! The thick fillets are perfect for the grill and the high oil content makes it as tasty as it is healthy. Sockeye is the second-most abundant of the salmon, but is also one of the smallest salmons. It has a bright red flesh and is usually one of the more reasonably priced of the Alaskan salmon. Coho is the second-largest of the salmon and has more of an orange flesh. These fillets make great grilling as well and are usually moderately priced. Their season tends to come later in the summer and into the fall. Keta salmon has the firmest flesh of all the Alaskan salmon and is usually much less expensive than the first three salmon. You will find Keta salmon to be very abundant in the freezer section at Hy-Vee. Last, but not least, is the Pink salmon. It is the most abundant of all the salmon and is the least expensive of all of the salmon. You will find a lot of Pink salmon in the canned fish section of Hy-Vee.
Customers ask me what is my favorite. I tell them that they call it King salmon for a reason. It is simply the best. I found this out firsthand last summer. I was very fortunate to take a fishing trip to Alaska with one of Hy-Vee’s suppliers, Trident seafood. Trident is the largest crab, pollock and salmon processor in Alaska. They treated us aboard their vessel the Annandale. I saw firsthand the true abundance of Alaskan salmon. Looking over the side of our fishing boat, it was not uncommon to see massive schools of Coho and Pink salmon rushing by! Catching my first Alaskan King salmon was a dream come true.
Sport fishing in Alaska is just as regulated as commercial fishing is. We were only allowed one King salmon each day! This helps ensure that neither fishery causes a depletion of the natural resource.
That’s why Hy-Vee has great partnerships in place with the best Alaskan salmon producers to ensure an abundant amount of quality Alaskan salmon all summer long. You don’t have to travel thousands of miles to get excellent, fresh Alaskan salmon, just go down the street to your local Hy-Vee fish market.
Salmon season is in full swing, so take the time to try several of the species and learn which one you like best. But don’t wait too long, as the season is short and the fish are at their peak right now.