Ancient fishing, modern markets:

Reefnet-caught ike jime wild Fraser River sockeye

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Reefnet Fishing.jpg

Modern reefnet fishing. Photo courtesy of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

For millennia, fishermen from the San Juan Islands have set their gears on reefs (areas where currents and underwater geography corral migrating salmon into shallow and near-shore waters). Leads, or lattices of lines and anchors, guide the fish ever tighter and shallower. Fishers stand on towers and watch fish swim into a small hand-and-winch controlled net. When the fishers spy an incoming school, watchers shout, "Pull!" and the crew (generally for to six people) spring into action.

Once trapped in the net, fish are gently rolled onboard, non-target species released unharmed while "keeper fish" are returned to a live pen to swim until the crew is ready to process them. This ability to release non-target species is the reason reef nets or "lift nets," as they call them, has earned the only "Best Choice" designation for a wild salmon fishery from the Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch program.

"Fraser River sockeye are amazing," explains Nick Jones, owner of Jones Family Farms and one of the partners in this new fishery. "They are the fish that have driven human life in the San Juans since the glaciers receded. Their fat content and flavor are second best--after Baker River sockeye--in the world. By catching them with the reefnet technique, and using Ike Jime, we are delivering a unique and incomparable sockeye to the world."

So what exactly is Ike Jime? It's a Japanese fish-killing technique involving a rapid death, bleeding and then, in a key step, cutting the tail to expose the spinal column and then stimulating the fish's nervous system to release tension in the flesh.

Doing this on-site, immediately after the catch, minimizes lactic acid in the flesh, improves fish flavor and texture, and lengthens the shelf life of the fish, which, in turn, allows for aging of the fish, allowing deeper flavors to emerge. (Little-known fact: the very finest sushi fish are aged to build flavor.) A prerequisite to aging fish, however, is proper slaughter technique.

"Ike Jime yields a higher quality fish," said Jones. "Fish are normally suffocated, causing maximum release of stress hormones into the flesh. But Ike Jime means a rapid death and release of tension in the fish.

This technique also produces a wild salmon with impeccable handling, since there is no bruising, retained blood or off-flavors."

Jones has partnered with two industry veterans in the new fishery, Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild, and Mikuni Wild Harvest our of Canada. As you can expect, it's a short harvest. Starts Sunday, July 29th, runs through August.

Here's what the salmon look like after they've undergone the ike jime process; you can clearly see the notch on the tail (photo by Riley Starks):
Reefnet-Caught Ike Jime Wild Fraser River Sockeye_photo credit Riley Starks.jpg

To order Reefnet-Caught Ike Jime Wild Fraser River Sockeye, chefs and consumers alike can contact Mikuni Wild Harvest directly here.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on July 27, 2018 4:00 PM.

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