As I write this, hours after feasting on white king salmon caught just hours before in the Kachemak Bay winter king fishery, I can’t help but count the ways in which I love salmon. My partner and I, savoring that broiled fish with a touch of soy sauce, exclaimed again and again at just how rich, oily, sweet, incredibly good-tasting our meal was. “There’s nothing better,” we swore, and there isn’t. If, at the end of our lives, either one of us is granted a last taste of anything, our choices will be, without hesitation, fresh king salmon.
Every bite of salmon reminds me of so many other ways in which I love salmon. Salmon gave me my first Alaska jobs -- in a seafood shop and then a processing plant. Then for parts of two years I worked at a salmon hatchery, loving those pink salmon through the whole process from adult capture to fry release, loving the work and the friendships forged in a magical world of lagoon and stream and forest. After that, Ken and I spent summers setnetting, loving each salmon into the skiff, remarking at their individual shining beauty and at the whole sea- and beach-bound life we were fortunate to live. Our beach neighbor’s first gift to us was strips of smoked salmon; ever after, we filled our smokehouse with the same treasure to eat and share.
In recent years I’ve watched bears fish at the McNeil River Falls, watched belugas fish in Cook Inlet, showed tourists streams full of salmon from Sitka to Nome. Today I’m incredibly grateful when a friend arrives with winter king from the bay. How connected we all are, fish and non-fish, here, there, and everywhere around the state.