Don't fill that freezer

This would be a good time to think about how many salmon we need for our personal use.


When I first learned how to catch salmon, I gave little thought to how many I needed. Cursed by Norwegian genes, my main concern was being on the water, fishing. I kept within the bag limits, but I was fishing at every opportunity, so I caught a lot of salmon. In 1978, a day came when I had all the fish I needed, and had given a salmon to everyone I knew who would take one. Instead of stopping, I went right on fishing.

The fishing regulations were different in the late ‘70s. In June of 1978, I was catching a king every time I went out. The fall silver fishing was phenomenal. I thought it would never end.

Back then, airlines would fly two pieces of luggage at no cost. On trips Outside, I’d take two 50-pound boxes of salmon and give them to relatives, which made me feel generous and useful. This went on for several years. Then I discovered that some of the fish I gave to people were still in their freezers from the year before. I tried to educate them about thawing and cooking fish, but it didn’t always “take.” I cut back on taking fish to relatives Outside.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when I was catching all the salmon I could, I was not only filling my freezer, but canning a lot of salmon. After a few years of this, my family grew tired of eating canned salmon. That didn’t hurt my feelings, because canning was expensive and hard work.

To get rid of the frozen salmon from the previous year, I would smoke them. Smoking salmon involved even more work than canning, but at least people would eat it. However, they eventually tired of eating smoked salmon, so I stopped doing that.

By the mid-1990s, I was neither giving away nor wasting very much salmon. I was vacuum packing it. I found that vacuum-packed fish would last longer, and not have as much “freezer-burn” and “off” flavors. It looked and tasted better. I wasn’t feeding as much of it to the dog or cat.

The learning curve had been a long one. What with one thing and another, it took me about 20 years to learn to not harvest more salmon than I could use.

In recent years, thousands of people who have never been able to catch more salmon than they could use are doing just that with dip nets at the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, and with hook and line upstream on these rivers. I hope these people have more sense than I did. It’s so easy to catch too many fish, and so tempting, and so much fun. Trouble is, catching too many is wasteful, greedy and an awful lot of work and expense.

Take it from someone who learned the hard way, a large part of the satisfaction of fishing is caring for and storing your catch. The pleasure is even greater when all of the fish you bring home become part of delicious meals, and when not one of them is wasted.

For free brochures on how to freeze, can and smoke salmon, visit the Cooperative Extension Service, at 34824 Kalifornsky Beach Rd., Suite A, in Soldotna. (907-262-5824)

Les Palmer can be reached at