SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

'Alaska Wild', Dredge drag & Crab boat to show boat
By Laine Welch


August 04, 2007

'Alaska Wild' is the now the official name of salmon sandwiches being served by an expanded number of Subway restaurants throughout the state.

The salmon item, introduced at Subway/Kodiak two years ago, is being featured at 28 outlets in Anchorage, Eagle River, the Mat Su Valley and Denali Park through Labor Day.

Tiffany Tutiakoff, a publicist at Northwest Strategies, came up with the idea of a 'name the sandwich' contest, held last week at an Anchorage outlet.

"I thought it would be great to get locals involved and give them some ownership in a product that is from Alaska," she said.

The' Alaska Wild' sandwich mix is made from Kodiak pink fillets, and delivered to Subway ready to be spread on the bread.

"It's ultra convenient. You just open it up, it's pasteurized and fully cooked," said Chris Sannito, who produces the product under the Alaska Wildsource, Inc. label. "It's lightly smoked with no salt, no additives and it's unlike canned salmon texture. It's really good stuff."

The Kodiak school district is also putting Wildsource salmon on the menu this year, in both sandwiches and heated dishes.

"The kids like the idea that it could be pinks caught by their families," Sannito said.

Meanwhile, back at the Subway restaurants, Alaska Wild was outselling tuna.

"I think people are really excited to have a local product, and to be able to support a small business at a place like Subway," Tutiakoff said.

If all 22,000 Subway outlets sold just 10 pounds of salmon per week, it would add up to nearly 12 million pounds each year, said Subway/Kodiak owner Dan Rohrer.

Dredge drag

A new design for scallop dredges could turn it into a kinder, gentler gear. The heavy metal dredges, which span 30 feet and can weigh two tons, are dragged across the bottom in pursuit of the pricy bivalves. An unintended consequence can be damage to marine habitat.

Fisheries engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have built something better. The new lighter, more mobile dredge uses angled, hollow, netted hemispheres that are mounted on pivots for deflection, and on wheels instead of skid plates.

The new dredge, which operates without a heavy bottom-leveling 'cutting bar,' is undergoing test trials in the Irish Sea with good results, said MIT engineering guru Cliff Goudey.

"We were able to get scallops up into the bag without having the cutting bar in front of it. I see that as a major accomplishment," Goudey said.

The MIT team is also engineering a new design for trawl nets.
"It's a trawl door with an acoustic sensor that you can automatically dial in how high you want to fish off the bottom," Goudey explained.

In many cases, firm bottom contact between the trawl door and the sea bed are not essential, Goudey said.

"It's only a matter of convenience and almost sloppiness that we do that. There is no reason why you couldn't continue trawling and have the doors slightly off bottom while the net remains on bottom," he added.
Goudey said his motivation for new gear designs goes beyond protecting marine habitat.

"It saves fuel and maintenance costs and it just makes more sense," he said. "Whether it's the gear getting torn up or the bottom, if it doesn't need to happen why do it?"

Cliff Goudey is also the creator of the Ocean Drifter, a giant mobile fish cage that can ping pong between continents, delivering live catches to world markets. "Within a year you'll be hearing about that around Puerto Rico," he said.

Crab boat to show boat

The crab boat Aleutian Ballad was famous as one of the 'Deadliest Catch' fleet. But when it was capsized two years ago by a 60 foot rogue wave, the Ballad said goodbye to the Bering Sea.

Ketchikan-based Aleutian Ballard
Photo courtesy Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tours

The 107 foot boat is now starring in a different role - thrilling visitors with sea-going reality tours in calmer waters near Ketchikan, Alaska. The new venture is the vision of Aleutian Ballad owner Dave Lethin, a Bering Sea crab veteran who conceived the tour idea ten years ago.

"I wanted to share the lifestyle and the allure that draws fishermen to the sea," he said.

Lethin has condensed a day in the fishing life to a four hour tour. From the heated comfort of sheltered observation areas, up to 150 guests can watch the Aleutian Ballad's seasoned crew launch and retrieve 700 pound pots full of crab and other sea creatures.

Tanner Crabs and Captain David of the Aleutian Ballard
Photograph by Chris Wilhelm

Photographer Chris Wilhelm wrote, "Little did I know how much of each species and what size they would find in the protective waters of the Annette Island Indian Reserve. I was shocked and astonished. In a little over 3 hours we drove there and back and hauled in King Crab, Tanner crab, prawns, a longline with rockfish, a wolf eel, two octopus, and the biggest Dungeness crabs I've ever seen, over 5 pounds." He said photos can not reflect the extent of the fun and surprises.

"We pulled a pot and a 40 pound octopus was hanging on the outside. It rolled onto the deck and it took three of us to pry it off and put it into the live tank. They all were saying 'wow, this is the real thing!'" Lethin said.

The Aleutian Ballad is able to drop crab pots and other gears thanks to an exclusive licensing partnership with the Metlakatla Indian Tribe, which has total jurisdiction of the waters off its Annette Island shorelines, an area of about 85 square miles.

The tours began last week and Lethin believes the crew is giving guests an authentic glimpse of the fishing life.

"They've seen it on TV, and now they get to feel the exhilaration when the crab pot comes over the sidethey hear the water dripping off the pot and smell the bait and feel it crash down on the launcher," said Lethin. "They understand now why we go back for more."

Check out the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tours at


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. 2007 marks the 16th year that she has been writing this weekly fisheries column. It now appears in nearly 20 newspapers and web outlets.
Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

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Ketchikan, Alaska