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Big changes have come to the Flopping Fresh Fish Company. To put it succinctly, the products of the Flopping Fresh Fish Company are no longer available. But the website will live on, at least for now.
Here's the story.Gerald Masolini
First there was Gerald Masolini, a true master in the annals of turning seasonal salmon into a year around food staple. His little Eyak Canning Company gave the Flopping Fresh Fish Company its start, and taught me how to get the most out of our outstanding Copper River salmon. But nothing lasts forever, and Gerald went on to other things.
Panicked, I found Bill Bailey, a life-long salmon fisherman whose skills in the smokehouse and as a custom canner continued to make the products of the Flopping Fresh Fish Company possible. For about a decade his talent in the smokehouse kept things rolling. Tired of his landlocked life, Bill retired recently so that he would be free to return to his first loves -- fishing and the sea. Good for Bill no doubt, but not so good for me. He was the only certified custom smoker/canner left in Cordova, and so far no one has stepped forward to try and fill his boots. I am not the only one who will miss him, as many Cordovans relied on his skills.
I have explored my possible options to keep the Flopping Fresh Fish coming, but have not found any that could provide the quality preparation necessary to preserve the natural superiority of early-run Copper River sockeye. Bill always got them into the smoker or the retort promptly upon their arrival at the dock; to ship them elsewhere for smoking and canning would require a great deal of handling including freezing, subsequent thawing, and probably machine cutting and packing. Each extra, time-consuming and quality-destroying step would slowly turn them from exceptional to ordinary, and at a higher price, and no one would be pleased. An additional kick in the Flopping Fresh Fish Company's metaphorical groin came with the elimination of the traditional half-pound can from the various can-makers' production facilities. To them, it was an anachronism, but to us it was the thing that enabled careful hand-packing and allowed a decent portion. The "replacement" is a tapered can that is designed for machine filling -- and holds only 6-3/4 ounces of fish. Hand-labelling this can is nearly impossible, and requires expensive die-cut labels. Swell idea, guys!
To make a long story short, the Flopping Fresh Fish Company has gone out of business. Nothing is left except a modest supply of cans that I will eat myself. Each time I open one to enjoy its fine bouquet and flavor, it is a sweet-sour moment. Hard not to shed a tear.Hence what follows on this website is simply nostalgia. Stories about fishing are enjoyed by many, so some will remain available here for fans. And I will be happy to make room for other fish writers written words if any are offered.
Capt Buck Meloy and friend
The Copper River sockeye salmon season runs from mid-May through July, when Captain Buck used to catch these prized wild Copper River sockeye and prepared them for his Flopping Fresh Fish Company affishionados.
"Used to catch ..."? Yep, here's the rest of the story. The Captain pulled his net and dropped his anchor for the last time in 2012. For the following two years, his good friend and former radio-partner on the water, Kenny Carlson -- under the Captain's careful scrutiny -- caught and coddled the sockeye that ended up in the Flopping Fresh Fish Company's cans. Captain Carlson recently redecked his boat and reconfigured his holds, adding features that now make possible the same careful care of his fish that I have always applied to mine. Though it is hard for me to admit, he is possibly more diligent than I in his pursuit of perfect fish, and I was pleased and proud to have brought him into the Flopping Fresh Fish fold. Please give an enthusiastic welcome to Capt. Kenny Carlson! (Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap!!). And a goodbye since the fish he once brought for me now will go to other uses. (Tears, sobbing!)
In Alaska, all fish processing is a highly regulated undertaking. Alaska's seafood products are safe and nourishing. No farmed salmon, no unrefrigerated fish hanging around waiting for days to be disguised as something worth eating, no calling one product another. And there is a small army of knowledgable state and federal inspectors regularly checking processors and their plants to make sure they are doing their jobs carefully and well -- and denying them the privilege of being processors if they are not. Seafood capture and processing is the biggest business in Alaska; tens of thousands of Alaskans earn their livings from it, and we all take it very seriously.
Since processing and canning for sale requires certified processors and canning, and since there is no longer any certified processor in Cordova willing to do small scale custom jobs, small entrepreneurs there are out of luck, and so are their customers.
Nevertheless, Captain Buck still dusts off the old Smith-Corona every so often to share with you a peek at what goes on in the peculiar world of fishing. Easing into retirement has paradoxically been a time-consuming endeavor, however, and new stories have been slow to come. But here is one, "I Cannot Hear the Birds". And another, a slightly revised one, "Loggerheads". And while you are waiting for the next one, you can take another glance at "A Tale Untold", a long-suppressed account of a botched burial at sea, or "Buck Naked in Cordova", which noted the changing seasonal tempo of a small Alaskan fishing town.
Exxon's appeal and refusal to pay the court-ordered punitive damages for its egregious negligence when they let a known relapsed alcoholic captain pilot one of its supertankers was finally heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in February of 2009. That gave Exxon's lawyers the chance to argue that they didn't really mean it. Read about it here: "Exxon Will Make Us Whole".
The more than 37,000 injured claimants are now receiving one-tenth of what a federal jury determined would have been fair. In 2013, twenty-four years after this destructive event, checks that for most do not even equal the lost 1989 season have finally trickled in. If you think that Exxon has mended its ways, consider the contemporary (July, 2011) spill of an estimated 1000 barrels of crude oil into the Yellowstone River from an Exxon pipeline. Once again, promises to fix everything spew from the same source. If Exxon's conscience even came close to matching the declarations of its vast public relations machinery, we might have a reason to listen to some of the things they say.Links to other pathetic attempts at verbal expression will be found near the bottom of this page. The Captain actively solicits interesting stories and observations, and is happy to post the best of them on this site. "Witty", "incisive", "brilliant", "obscure", and "confusing" are adjectives that might be applicable to what goes on there.
"SLICKY" is long over.
' Slicky '
Slicky has served well as the long-time lovely seagull-dung-covered Flopping Fresh Fish Company's 1972 GMC truck. Unfortunately, over 100,000 miles on Cordova's quaint dirt and crushed rock roads and constant exposure to Cordova's sometimes severe winters and copious chronic rain took a toll on her. The final blow was being buried under forty feet of snow during the Snowpocalypse of 2011-2012. She still ran, but lacked a windshield, mirrors, and no longer had convex roof or hood. Her body is more rust than steel and the gas tank would no longer contain gasoline. Her loss may be Cordova's gain, but we still mourn her.
FLOPPING FRESH FISHY STUFF
A Word About "Organic" Salmon
You may recall that my salmon, and those meeting the same standards on delivery to Prime Select Seafoods of Cordova, Alaska, obtained the first and only "Organic" certification ever earned by wild salmon. Unfortunately, differences among organic certifiers and the refusal of two major natural foods marketers to recognize this certification created a turmoiled situation that made marketing our salmon as "Organic" uneconomical. Adding to the confusion, a few foreign salmon farms have obtained "organic" certifications from a foreign certifier for their "feedlot" salmon.
The USDA is still developing national organic standards for seafood marketed in this country. Incredibly, it is possible that the USDA is preparing to permit the labelling as "organic" of farmed salmon that are raised in crowded cages, inocculated, fed pellets laced with dyes (without which they could not develop the red flesh color of their wild counterparts), and routinely dosed with chemicals and antibiotics. Should this come to pass, harvesters of naturally organic wild salmon from the pure waters of the North Pacific will take no pride in a similar label for their fish.
Now that farmed salmon have been shown to contain questionably high levels of PCBs, due to the way they are fed and raised, wild Pacific salmon have become even more highly regarded by people who seek healthfulness in everything they eat. And those who insist on food produced in environmentally friendly ways will also want to avoid eating fish as destructive to wild resources as most farmed salmon are. You can read Capt. Buck's story about Alexandra Morton, the woman who first proved that sea lice in penned farmed salmon are destroying wild salmon in British Columbia, here: "Alexandra's Pink Revolution".
But with or without "organic" certification, the North Pacific's wild salmon have been given a clean bill of health. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), following years of research and documentation, has certified the harvest of Alaska's wild salmon as environmentally friendly and a sustainably well-managed resource, and has given them its highly-regarded MSC seal of approval.
More recent worries have been about the possibility of radiation contamination of West Coast salmon from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Several purveyors of wild-caught Pacific salmon have gone to the expense and trouble of actually testing their catches for contamination. The result: none yet. You can read about what the Loki Fish Company and its owner Pete Knutson have done, and found, here: http://www.lokifish.com/scrapbook_detail.php
This simply proves what Captain Buck Meloy already knew: that a creature as exquisite as a wild Pacific salmon is worth more than a toss into a box upon capture, and that those who appreciate delectable and nutritious table fare deserve better than a fish that still has (only) a few days of shelf-life left. He also understands the natural superiority of wild fish, which are inherently antibiotic-free, get plenty of exercise, and have grown up eating an organic diet in some real cool clean water. And they are very high in the nutritious Omega 3's that have been proven to have many health benefits.
Fisher Poets Gathering, Astoria OR, March 2015
If you would like to see where Cordova (and its 1600 year around residents) is,
take a boat or plane (there's no road), or click here:
Flopping Fresh Fish TalesAll mercifully pretty short
"Northwest Citizen's" Salmon Corner
A discussion of the selectivity of the various gear types
used in Puget Sound. No pictures.
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