AMCC is thrilled to welcome Su Salmon Co. as our newest business member! Su Salmon Co. is five friends who setnet sockeye and silvers on the Susitna River Delta at the base of the Sleeping Lady. They are Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley’s most local commercial fishery with a twin focus of providing fresh, high quality fish to Alaska residents, and deepening human connection to the Susitna River and Cook Inlet in the process.
Salmon are picked live from the net, bled, chilled in slush ice, gutted, gilled, kissed and delivered to Anchorage or Talkeetna within 24 hours. They deliver on Tuesdays and Fridays. Ordering is simple – just let them know how many fish you need with a couple days notice. Prices are $6/lb for sockeye and $4.50/lb for silvers. Order online at susalmonco.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Melissa at 907.242.0779.
Tell us about your connection to the ocean and to Alaska’s wild fisheries.
We have an obvious literal connection of making money from the salmon resources of Alaska’s coastline, but our being here is a little ironic because at heart we’re river people. Mike and Molly live upstream from Talkeetna on a remote off-grid part of the Su while I (Ryan) live in Anchorage but have spent years as a river sportfishing guide all through salmon country from California to Kamchatka. Yet here we are in the mud of Cook Inlet.
How did you first get started fishing?
We came together a few years ago when the State proposed the colossal Susitna-Watana Dam Project. The Su means a lot to us personally and professionally and the thought of it being choked by a dam was spooky. Public reaction to the dam meanwhile was sort of ho-hum and it surprised us that even though the Susitna is a top 5 salmon-producer and the single most visited watershed in Alaska, people did not jump up to defend it as fervently as they are doing in Bristol Bay with the Pebble Mine, for example, or even on the Kenai recently with the Snow River Dam proposal. We wanted to do something to help boost the Susitna’s cultural cachet. Then, market-wise, there was this funny coincidence of Anchorage and the Mat-Su not having a local commercial salmon source. Finally, we’re all good friends and suckers for camping out on the coast and watching the salmon parade in real time and eating them every day. Su Salmon Co just sort of sprung out of all this.
What is the most rewarding (or challenging) part of your business?
We started Su Salmon Co with the idea of selling fresh salmon to Alaska residents. But the premise was a little risky. What self respecting Alaskan doesn’t harvest their own salmon? Well it turns our there are a lot! Not everyone is able to get out dipnetting, or they go but have bad luck, or some don’t get off on fishing in the first place. But everyone in Alaska eats salmon and likes to have it in the freezer by fall. Alaskans also inherently know what excellent rather than merely good salmon should look, taste, and feel like. So the most rewarding part of our business is providing people in our communities with that little endorphin buzz that comes with every bite of a perfect wild salmon.
Why do you choose to support AMCC?
Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the US combined. With few people and endless natural resources, we’re rich. To capitalize on it in a meaningful way, though, takes investment and participation in community as much as industry. AMCC seems to get this and we like how their stewardship keeps eyes on the big picture.
What is your most vivid fishing memory, or what do you love most about fishing?
How do you celebrate your connection to the ocean as an Alaskan?
What do you see as the biggest threat to Alaska’s small-boat commercial fisherman?
Heather Kelly is an evolutionary sports nutritionist and creator of Heather’s Choice, a line of dehydrated meals and snacks for adventuring. Heather works hard to find the best sustainable sources of protein for all of her meals, including wild Alaskan salmon! Heather’s Choice recently donated a portion of their smoked sockeye salmon chowder sales to AMCC on Wild Salmon Day. We appreciate Heather’s support and encourage you to try one of her meals on your next backcountry trip or busy weeknight evening.
What motivated you to start Heather’s Choice?
As a nutritionist, I wanted to have healthy, delicious food in my pack for all of my backcountry trips. I remember being really frustrated that I couldn’t fit three days worth of whole foods in a bear canister for a packrafting trip in Denali National Park, and decided there had to be a better way. After spending years playing with a small at home food dehydrator, I took a leap and launched my website to start selling some of my favorite meals and snacks. Little did I know, it has grown to be very popular and we now ship nationwide!
What is your business best known for?
We are best known for providing lightweight, shelf-stable, packable meals and snacks for the backcountry. Some of our best sellers include our Smoked Sockeye Salmon Chowder, Gluten-free Blueberry Buckwheat Breakfast, and Orange Vanilla Coconut Packaroons.
What sets your business apart from others in your industry?
We have a strong commitment to sourcing only the best ingredients, including wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon. Even though our products are twice as expensive as our competitors, our customers love having higher quality food to eat on their adventures. We have supported a handful of organizations that we are proud to work with, including Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the Wild Sheep Foundation, Alaska Mountain & Wilderness Huts Association, and AMCC.
What would you tell someone who’s considering trying your products for the first time?
We are a born and raised Alaska-based business that puts a ton of emphasis on our customer service. We will go out of our way to get our meals to a customer in time for their trip, even if it is last minute. The constant communication with our customers is what has made this business so fun, because we have such great supporters! They always have awesome stories to tell of their adventures.
What keeps your customers coming back?
Good customer service and delicious food! Our biggest fans are folks who eat healthy at home, and want to continue to enjoy nutritious food on their backcountry trips.
How did you get involved with AMCC?
I was first introduced to AMCC by (board member) Joel Cladouhos, and it seemed like a very natural fit for our business model. We love putting wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon in people’s packs, and anyway we can support wild fish populations, we are all about it!
What would you say are the strongest connections to your business and AMCC?
AMCC’s efforts to support wild and healthy fish populations directly impact our supply chain. Without access to good seafood, we won’t be able to continue providing sustainably-sourced fish to our customers.
What kind of fishing do you like to do?
I had a blast dipnetting on the Copper River this summer for sockeye! In a matter of four hours we were able to bring in enough salmon to fill our freezer for the winter. No one can complain about eating salmon three days per week!
AMCC has been working with Darius Kasprzak since they collaborated with Kodiak fishermen to secure a decision by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to set aside up to 6% of the Gulf of Alaska cod quota for the low-impact jig fleet, providing more opportunity for small boat and entry-level fishermen. Recently, AMCC’s Engagement and Development Manager, Samantha Baker, talked with Kasprzak about this jig set-aside, the creation of the Kodiak Jig Seafoods brand, and his support of AMCC as its newest business member.
Sam: How did you get started fishing in Alaska? What does fishing (and specifically jig fishing) symbolize for you?
Darius: I was raised and home schooled on the highly rural south end of Kodiak Is. At age 14, I began crewing on a salmon setnet site along with my father, to make fall spending money for my first school year in a community (Kodiak High School).
Fishing symbolizes an independent, self employed method to make a living close to the ocean. Jig fishing in particular reflects an entry level and open access means to independently harvest premium seafood in a sustainable, low ecosystem impact fashion without reliance on heavy, expensive gear or a plethora of crew.
S: How did you first come to work with AMCC?
D: I first came to work with with AMCC almost a decade ago, during a grassroots struggle against fishery privatization in the Gulf of Alaska.
S: What is your perception of AMCC on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and in the world of fisheries policy?
D: AMCC testifies and is represented at NPFMC meetings, and consistently defends community fishing interests – in terms of available resource access that coexists with the necessary conservation and sustainable harvesting safeguards of responsible marine resource extraction.
S: What are ways you’ve seen AMCC’s work impact Kodiak? How do you perceive AMCC’s role in the region?
D: AMCC affiliation brings diverse subsets of community residents together, in order to galvanize action necessary to maintain the viability of resident, small scale, and family fishing operations – against marine ecosystem desecration, privatization, vertical integration, consolidation and other related aspects of large scale corporate greed and ambivalence towards preexisting socioeconomic patterns and overall social fabric cohesion.
I perceive AMCC’s role as twofold – (1) as that of whistleblower against unsustainable, or environmentally unsound marine resource extraction practices, and (2) as an advocate for policies that foster productive, harmonious port communities.
S: What did the jig set-aside mean for Kodiak fishermen? What did it mean for you and your fishing business?
D: The Federal jig set asides (Pacific cod and rockfish) meant the ability to jig harvest beyond the boundaries of State jurisdiction, without having to invest in expensive licenses or permits. They also provide a dedicated summertime jig fishery in the GOA, even if the State managed jig fishery has already been closed. As a full time jig fisherman, the set asides mean to me a much higher level of job security during the fair weather of summer, as well as expanded range and spatial opportunity to harvest.
S: What has the creation of Kodiak Jig Seafoods meant to you? How do you see this brand growing into the future?
D: KJS realizes an opportunity to showcase the unique and desirable aspects of the jig fishery (sustainable harvesting through artesian hand tended hook and line fishing, and exceptional product quality). KJS provides an alternative to large scale multi-sector corporate processor markets, and contributes to incentivizing free-market style ex-vessel price competition amongst various seafood buyers within my community.
S: How has Kodiak Jig Seafoods been received in Kodiak? How has it been received by others you’ve talked to (i.e. chefs, lodge owners, consumers, etc.)?
D: KJS has been received favorably in Kodiak. Small scale processing facilities appreciate the processing business. Jig fisherfolk appreciate the enhanced sales revenue, in conjunction with elevated pride of their special product recognition amongst local and instate consumers, restaurants, lodges, etc.
S: What else do you have to say about Kodiak, being a fisherman, anything else?
D: Love it! AMCC, keep up the good work!