Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I caught one, what do I do now?

When I've been at sport shows I can't tell you how many times I've been asked, "How do I get my fish home?". The first thing I'll say is that you need to catch one before you have to worry about it, but after that you have two options. You can either ship your fish home or you can travel with it. Let's explore both options.

Part of my service is filleting your fish. I love to do it and I find it's a great wind down from a day on the water. After I fillet your fish I will bag the pieces and then it's up to you to do what you want with them. If you decide to use a fish processor, there are several close by. They will do whatever you want with the fish; fillet, vacuum seal, can, smoke, ship, or exchange. I happen to recommend Custom Seafood Processors in Soldotna for these services. Jane and I use them ourselves, but perhaps what my German friend, Thomas, said sums it up best. He tried others but said that Custom Seafood Processors did not smell fishy like the other processors. He figured if they took pride in keeping their place clean they must also take pride in taking care of the catch. He's right. Let's take a look at the cost of processing fish at Custom Seafood Processing.

fillet, vac sealing & freezing 1.35lb
vac seal & freeze 1.20lb
fillet only .75lb
vac seal only .75lb
storage of processed fish free of charge

If you decide to have the processor ship your fish to your home they will pack your fish in a "fish box" and will ship on the day that you tell them to. Peter and Claire of Magic Waters Charters tell their clients that if you want your fish processed and shipped expect that it will cost you about $6 a pound. I've found this advice to be fairly accurate. One other thing to keep in mind if you choose to ship; make sure you send them to your house when you are home and not to your neighbor or a relative. It seems that if a box shows up that says "ALASKA SEAFOOD" the recipient feels the need to inspect it and sample the contents before they give it to you. What started at 50 pounds will mysteriously turn into 35 pounds.

Now if you really catch a lot of salmon and halibut and decide to have a processor take care of everything you'll often find the cost of this service to be more than the charter itself. If you're on a budget you may want to take care of the fish yourself. This is certainly a way to save some money. Several of our guests bring their own vacuum sealer. Others will have a processor take care of the vacuum sealing and then they'll box it themselves and fly back home with it. Not long ago many of our guests would fly back with a couple of fish boxes for free, but as I'm sure you're well aware the airlines are now charging for baggage.

A couple of final thoughts about getting your fish home on your own. Instead of bringing a cooler to Alaska I recommend that you buy a fish box when you are up here. You can find them at grocery stores or a processor and they usually run about $15-$20. They definitely pack into the trunk of a rental car better than a cooler. Another way some visitors save money is to use ziplock bags rather than vacuum sealing their catch. Unless you are going to eat all of your fish in a couple of weeks, I strongly recommend vacuuming sealing. Salmon commercially vacuum sealed will last up to a year and halibut even longer than that. To put it bluntly, you've spent a lot of money on your trip of a lifetime. It's important to not pinch pennies when it comes to taking care of your catch.

There's one alternative that I have yet to mention. Grill it fresh and enjoy every bite of it.


Anonymous said...

I'm one of those guys that asked you this stuff. Good, useful info.


jeff said...


Nice picture,
Those guys look a little worried about all the work ahead


Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service said...

I don't know what you guys are faster at, filleting fish or eating a cob of buttered sweet corn.


Gary Blinn said...

I have used Custom Seafood for over 10 years. We have not had one problem from their end yet. It is well worth the money to have them pack and freeze the fish. They are fantastic at making sure the boxes weigh 49.5 lbs for the airlines. And Lisa is a gem. I will be using them again in August.

Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service said...

There you go, a testimonial from a guy who has shipped THOUSANDS of pounds of fish from Alaska.

Dave Anderson said...


Excellent advice. The fish box is great advise as they weigh less than a cooler allowing more fish per package. We have always brought our fish back with us. Considering $6 a pound to be close, we find even with extra baggage fee's you can get by with about $3 a pound when you add in vacuum and freexing, cost of the box, and airline charges. We always plan our final night in Anchorage in a hotel with a freezer and even with an 8 hour time from checkin to baggage claim the fish stay frozen extremely well. I also really like the Custom Processors in Soldotna, great value.