Alaska Seafood Tours

Combine Ketchikan’s seafood tours for a surf-to-table experience

By: Christopher Batin
Clients can get up-close with catch on the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour. // © 2011 cbinsa
Clients can get up-close with catch on the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour. // © 2011 cbinsa

The Details

Alaska Fish House
www.alaskafishhouse.com

Aleutian Ballad Excursion
www.56degreesnorth.com

Baranof’s Exclusive Alaska
www.exclusivetouring.com

Your clients don’t have to wet a line or know how to fish in order to enjoy a fresh catch. In Ketchikan, Alaska, combine tours so clients can do it all — learning about where and how Alaska seafood is caught, receiving training on seafood preperation and enjoying freshly caught delicacies, served by experienced Alaskan chefs. My Ketchikan tour began at the surf and ended at the table and, as a result, I came away with a better understanding of Alaska seafood and how to prepare several scrumptious dishes.

The event began with the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at commercial crabbing and fishing, based on the popular show “The Deadliest Catch.” Clients don’t need to travel to the Bering Sea, however, to experience this adventure. The 3½-hour event takes place on the Aleutian Ballad (AB), a very short walk from Ketchikan’s cruise-ship docks.

As I was welcomed aboard the AB, I was impressed with the comfortable, sheltered seating overlooking the deck. Hot drinks were complimentary, as well as foul-weather gear.

The AB was soon cruising to the first crab pot. The crew members informed their audience about Alaska commercial fishing and shared information about the species, the equipment used and how dangerous life is on the open water. The eccentric crew personalities made this educational session hilarious.

We soon reached our first set, and the crew members fired up the winch to haul in a 700-pound Bering Sea crab pot. As they carefully guided it onto the deck, passengers were “ooing” and “aahing” over the catch — a four-foot octopus as well as crabs and a variety of starfish. The squirming prizes were taken around for passengers to examine and photograph. I found it entertaining as people scrambled to get their photos taken with a Dungeness crab or look at a ratfish eye-to-eye in the on-deck fish tank. All were released unharmed, and the trap was reset for the next tour.

The deckhands tossed out some bait near the shore and, as if on cue, several bald eagles swooped out of the trees and snared the herring with outstretched talons.

After returning to the dock, I headed over to The Alaska Fish House, where I was seated for a culinary tour by Baranof’s Exclusive Alaska called the Alaska Chef’s Table. The meal takes place in a private dining room overlooking the Ketchikan Boat Harbor. With the food comes entertainment — our host revealed the stories behind the meals, from sagas of life in the Ketchikan fishing industry and personal accounts of nights on the stormy Gulf of Alaska to anecdotes about Norwegian grandmothers, gathered in an aged church basement, scrambling to prepare the best fish cakes in town. We learned how to steam the salmon, the proper way to remove bones from fish and the specifics of preparing prawns and Dungeness and king crab to perfection. The sampler menu of 10 items included hot- and cold-smoked salmon, shrimp, saffron-infused bouillabaisse, halibut, cappuccino brownies and rhubarb and blueberry bread pudding. For me, it was a full meal and something more — delightful. We were also given recipes to duplicate our experiences at home.

The tour was educational as well as tasty and, even as a 36-year Alaska resident, I walked away with new ideas and tips on how to prepare the Alaska seafood I so dearly love.

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