What does a former farm boy from Otter Tail County, with an enterprising attitude, do as a side business?
Go fishing, of course.
“Sunrise Salmon” was one of the unusual businesses represented at the Winter at the Barn vendor fair Feb. 3.
Kevin and Stephanie Schmidt are rural Otter Tail County folks, with a heritage of running a tractor and plow across a corn patch. In an unusual career shift, Kevin steers a fishing boat across offshore Alaskan waters towing a couple fishing nets the length of a football field.
After being introduced to the Alaskan commercial fishing scene about a decade ago, the Schmidts now have their own boat, docked near Bristol Bay, and harvest from 30,000 to 100,000 pounds of salmon annually. Kevin fishes the waters during the annual season in June and July.
Most of poundage is sold off the boat to processers and canners in or near the town of NakNek, Alaska. Last season, the Schmidts had about 6,000 pounds processed and shipped to Otter Tail County for direct retail sales.
Frozen filets were on display and for sale at the Winter at the Barn event Feb. 3, and the Schmidts also sell the wild-caught salmon at farm market, co-ops and direct to customers. Many customers now preorder from the Schmidts.
The fishing industry is closely monitored and administered by the Alaska fish and game department, making it one of the most sustainable commercial fishing sites in the world, noted Stephanie. Permits are bought and sold among a limited number of commercial fishermen.
The transition from landlubber to big water, commercial fisherman has been successful for Kevin. Being a farm kid, he knows how to operate, repair and maintain equipment–which is a big part of the commercial fishing operation.
As far as deep sea hazards, Kevin hasn’t encountered Moby Dick–or suffered a shipwreck, to date. But the beauty of the Alaskan landscape is all around him during the six week season, including baluga whales that are a common sight.
Sunrise Salmon bills their product as “sustainably harvested, handed with care, and professionally, hand filleted.”