Quite recently, my daughter and I went on a little excursion.
Through the trees, on paved roads to a little town 4 hours outside of Anchorage to go Fishing. "Catching" according to my friends son. And he's right. Fish Wheeling, is more like Catching then anything. Still exciting, and a little tedious, sort of like ice fishing.
You wait and wait for the THUD! of a fish in the box. You wait and wait for that fish to die, so you can pull it out. Exciting.
I have never understood "fishing" with a rod and reel. My husband loves it, and actually shot a documentary-type movie about fly fishing last year (it's being edited now), and apparently had the TIME of his life. Me? Nah. I'd rather fish with a net or wheel, fillet for hours, vac seal and then be done for the day.
My life is much too busy to be relaxing on a river or a boat fishing with a line. One fish at a time. I'm too impatient. I have too much stuff to do.
Fish-Wheeling though, is fun. Sleeping in the back bed of a pickup truck, not so fun. But necessary, so no complaints.
We started our trip stopping in Chickaloon to see my dad. He had a nice shiny new Ulu for me (it probably wasn't for me, but luckily I was the first of the girls to visit, so I took it!) and we really had to get our other ones sharpened.
After driving forever, we stopped in Tazlina to say hi to Elmer and help hang king salmon strips for smoking. The wheel had been in the river for a bit so we knew we'd cut when we got there.
Ulu's in hand, we started cutting and cutting and cutting.
If you don't know how to cut a salmon. My NINE year old will give you a lesson. By the way, none of us Eskimo girls can cut with a fillet knife. We use ulus. So, we carry them around with us everywhere. And you start to receive them when you're two years old and can contribute to the family's subsistence lifestyle. ALSO P.S. You can fillet without cutting the head off, but this was easier and the butterfly fillet was the choice so we could use all the belly strips too. Also P.P.S. her Ulu is sharper than a kitchen knife. :)
Step One: Cut off the head. Using the tip of your ulu, break the backbone and remove the head. (If you're eating the head, then throw it in a bucket to take care of later)
Step Two: Follow the line of the backbone and cut on the side of the bones, trying not to leave any flesh. Cut through two sets of pin bones up to the ribs and stop.
Step Three: Do the same thing on the other side. Don't stop at the ribs, keep going, right next to them until you hit the belly. Cut through to the tail but don't remove the tail.
Step Four: Flip it over and finish the other side. You should have an "open" fish fillet with a middle section of bone sticking out still connected at the tail.
Step Five: Pull the bone section up and cut away any membranes connecting it to the stomach.
Step Six: PULL the bone section up and over the fillet and cut the tail off.
This step was a little hard for her, because you can actually just RIP the bones off at this point, but she had to use her Ulu.
You should have a pretty translucent set of fish bones at this point (Like hers) connected to a tail. If you see to the right, she has a pile of fish eggs. We eat those too.
The fillet should look like this when you're done. Then we just rinse and wrap, flesh to flesh and start on another one.
We ended up with about 10 King Salmon and maybe 50 or so Reds. We cut into the night, then woke up at 6:30 am to cut some more.
Making sure your family has enough fish to last through the winter is very hard work. We never EVER buy salmon, unless it's in Sashimi form. And even then, we only buy it from local restaurants who buy local salmon. I would never eat a farmed salmon. And luckily for me, we have an abundance of Reds, Silvers, Kings and Chum (which are REALLY good from here cause they're still ocean fish) around us.
My husband likes to smoke them, then can them. I like to cut the butterfly fillets into family size meals, then vac seal them for dinners. We compromise and take half of the fish each time. Half to smoke, and half to eat. With about 1/3 to give away.