The Literate Chef

Catching Wild Salmon in Alaska and Cooking Wild Salmon at Home

In General Articles on August 7, 2011 at 7:10 PM

About 20 years ago, my wife and I along with two other couples, the Nearys and the Matteys, all friends for more than 20 years prior to then, spent a week touring the Kenai Peninsula in an RV camper.

Our Home on the Road

We had such a great time that we repeated the trip the following year but with a different route; that time we went north to Denali National Park and Fairbanks, then turned south to Valdez and took the ferry across Prince William Sound to Whittier, from which we returned to Anchorage to fly home.

The highlight of both trips was Salmon Fishing. On both occasions we three guys went with a pilot/guide, by the name of Merrill, in his floatplane. The first time was southwest from Anchorage across Cook Inlet to the Kustatan River for Silver Salmon. Silvers are also known as Coho Salmon, which is how you will see them usually displayed in a fish market.

Merrill’s Floatplane on the Kustatan River


The fishing trip the following year was for King Salmon, also known as Chinooks, which run considerably larger than the Silvers. That year we flew with Merrill north from Anchorage to the Susitna River.

To Catch a King

Someone else has a taste for Kings

Merrill was not only an excellent pilot, but a skilled guide as well. On both occasions he guided us to his well-scoped out fishing grounds, and as one can see from the photos, we were duly rewarded with a large catch of both Silvers and Kings. For bait, Merrill preferred salmon roe; because, as he explained it, salmon are very jealous and will go after another fish’s roe to destroy them and prevent any competition for their own spawn. Alaskan guides are prone to tall tales, so I don’t know whether or not this explanation is true, but it sure worked for us on both trips.

A Pair of Kings

Merrill did the cleaning and gutting for us. Upon returning to Anchorage we had the fish flash frozen and shipped home. Feasting on wild salmon was a treat that lasted for several months after our return and was a reminder of two great trips spent touring and having fun with good friends.

The recipes linked to this article were developed over the past 20 years with both the wild fish caught in Alaska and the less adventurous ones purchased from our local fish market.

Cedar Plank-Grilled Glazed Wild Salmon

  1. I can’t imagine fish tasting better. My wife laughed at me because a few years ago, I had to watch a guy demonstrate a new fishing lure. Turns out he was going to just release the trout. I took a cooler and guess what we had for dinner? I like your friend’s observation about the bait. Great post!

  2. Thanks for your comment. Merrill was quite a guy and a great guide; laconic with a wonderfully droll sense of humor. Upon stepping off the floatplane on our first trip, one of my friends and I spotted some huge animal droppings. Being city boys, we inquired as to what we had seen. Merrill informed us that they were from a bear and were not there the day before. He then made a point of going back to the plane to get his rifle and .45. I asked why he needed both, and he explained that the rifle was for the bear and the .45 for himself. We never saw that bear, but the following year his cousin showed up for dinner and Merrill very calmly said that it was time we found a new spot, as we didn’t want to poach on the bear’s spot.

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