The Catch Sitka Salmon Shares Member Newsletter June 2020

The Catch - June 2020

Twenty Years in the Wheelhouse of El Tib

Stu, catching fish
Twelve-year-old Stu Weathers on one of his first black cod trips with his mom, Dena. Like most fishermen in our fleet, fishing is a lifelong family affair.

Cover Photo: Captain Stu Weathers poses in front of his F/V El Tiburon (or El Tib for short). Stu’s been a commercial fisherman for almost 40 years.

Photos courtesy of Stu Weathers

With a quick flick of the wrist and a Popeye-like tug of his forearm, Captain Stu Weathers glides another immense halibut onto the deck of his trusty fishing vessel, El Tiburon, or El Tib for short. Stu’s experience, now in his fourth decade as a commercial fisherman, makes the singular move look effortless. In reality, he’s hauling a fish that weighs nearly 80 pounds about five feet out of the water, with torque and finesse that is second nature. This particular halibut is one of several hundred that Stu lands every year for Sitka Salmon Shares—most being about half this behemoth’s size.

Stu lands halibut in a multi-week stretch in April and May, usually once the weather is gentle enough for him to charge out to one of his prized “halibut holes.” A fishing family’s halibut hole is often one of its most closely-guarded secrets, so...shhh….if you ever find out where a fisherman’s halibut hole is... don’t tell anyone!

Stu at the helm
Stu in his first year as captain of the El Tiburon, twenty seasons ago. Stu bought the El Tiburon from his stepdad, Al, who had fished the boat with great success for several decades.

Once at his fishing grounds, Stu sets out his fishing gear, in this case, a long line anchored to the seafloor, strung with hooks baited with pollock, each hook about a dozen feet away from the next. A few hours later, Stu and his crew will hopefully land a few dozen halibut and move on to the next line. These lines are called “skates,” and they are set with hooks on pieces of rope called “ganglions.” These ganglions attach each hook to the mainline. “If all goes well, we get ‘em in one trip,” notes Stu (your halibut this year took two trips).

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I grew up—maybe play ball—but I was certain I didn’t want to fish. - Stu Weathers

For Stu, fishing has always been a family affair. He grew up fishing with his mom and stepdad, Dena and Al, and his brother Nathan on the El Tiburon. “We’re a family operation through and through. I’ve been active in the operation since I was about 10,” said Stu. Like nearly every young fisherman, though, Stu initially did everything he could to not fish as a profession. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I grew up—maybe play ball—but I was certain I didn’t want to fish,” he chuckled.

Stu with his brother and stepdad
Stu and his brother Nathan, with their stepdad, Al, posing next to some tangled halibut gear they affectionately nicknamed, "The Snarl." Stu loves reminiscing about these family trips: "They were the highlight of my summers."

Twenty years ago, at 25, Stu bought his family’s operation from his stepdad, Al, and he’s been captain of the El Tiburon ever since. The biggest project he’s ever undertaken was cutting the boat in half and adding another eight feet of deck space for him and his crew to work. Like most small-boat fishermen in our coastal communities, family has remained by his side the whole time. He continues to occasionally bring his cousins, nephews, and, of course, his brother, Nathan, onboard the El Tib to deckhand. Now his kids, Kayaani, Rawl, and Olen are becoming the third generation of fishermen in their family. “They’re loving it now, but they’ll probably try to get out of it someday like me. One of them will come back, I’m sure,” laughed Stu.

When we asked about his favorite recipe: “My family really likes the two halibut recipes from Captain John Skeele that Sitka Salmon Shares has on its website. We cook those a lot.”

Stu at the helm
Stu, circa 2015, smiles from the helm of his F/V Tiburon.

Cheers, Captain Stu! Thank you for another fantastic season of halibut. You can find Stu’s favorite halibut recipes, John Skeele's Baked Halibut and Fried Halibut.

Pacific Halibut

halibut unload
Sitka Salmon Shares fisherman, Stu Weathers, offloading halibut. Halibut are the largest fish we catch, with some specimens weighing over 100 pounds.

Photo by Kelley Jordan

Hippoglossus stenolepis

Species Info:

  • The largest of all flatfish, halibut have been recorded to weigh over 400 pounds.
  • Most of the ones that we catch are between 35-60 pounds.
  • Halibut are biological anomalies that develop asymmetrical bodies.

How Our Fishermen Catch Them:

  • Longline

Culinary Notes:

  • Halibut are revered in the culinary world for their thick flakes, meaty texture, and delicate, almost crab-like flavor.
  • Be careful not to overcook your halibut, and use plenty of oil, butter, or other fat! Halibut are very lean and easy to overcook.
Longline fishing for halibut
Longline is the fishing method used to catch both Sitka Salmon Share's halibut and sablefish.

Illustration by Carlea Kiddoo

Sablefish (Black Cod)

A sablefish held by Stu. Sablefish are distinguished by their dark grey-black color, teeny-tiny scales, and a long, narrow shape. Some people call them “butterfish” for their buttery, oily meat that is extremely high in heart-healthy fats.

Anoplopoma fimbria

Species Info:

  • Sablefish embrace extreme depths off the continental shelf of 10,000ft or more.
  • They’re a favorite snack of sperm whales, which have learned to follow sablefish fishermen and snap up their hard-earned catch as they pull them from the depths, much to fishermen’s dismay.

How Our Fishermen Catch Them:

  • Longline

Culinary Notes:

  • Sablefish have some of the highest levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids of any fish, making them very healthy and also very oily, which is uncommon in whitefish and unique to sablefish—for this reason, they’re also sometimes called butterfish.
  • Don’t be afraid to turn up the heat with sablefish—they can take it.

Weird and Wild:

  • About 1 in 100 sablefish have a genetic characteristic known as “jelly belly.” These fish lack an enzyme that makes their meat hold up to the heat of cooking. As a result, a sablefish with jelly belly will disintegrate while cooking. If you get a piece of sablefish like this, please let us know and we will replace your fish.

Pacific Cod

A fisherman holding Pacific cod
Photo courtesy of Kelley Jordan-Schuyler

Gadus macrocephalus

Species Info:

  • Has long supported the second largest commercial fishery in Alaska by weight
  • Easily distinguished by leopard-like spotting and a catfish-like whiskers

How Our Fishermen Catch Them:

  • Longline, pots, jigging

Culinary Notes:

  • Pacific cod have a flaky, delicate meat that is perfect for searing, baking, or breading and frying
  • Like other fish, be mindful not to overcook, and embrace the fat! use plenty of oil or butter.

1 comment

  • I love everything this company stands for ! I love the videos and Richie is a hoot on Wild at Home! I am new so I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me!!! Thank you!

    Roberta Gayer

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published