Thursday, May 30, 2013

They're just like Salmon....

but smaller, considerably smaller. I remember having some crispy and  tasteful Holigan at the DeCanter Inn with Woody in May of 1972. So when I brought MP up to Alaska in 1977 that first spring we had to have fried Holigan....and they were disgusting. Greasy, soft, bland....two sure sign that you're new to Alaska is fishing for Holigan and stopping along the road to take pictures of Moose. But after all these years of going Holigan free I kinda thought that with our current need for protein from the sea here at Mile 14 we'd give them babies one more try. Who knows, maybe we didn't do it right back in 77.
So after walking 9 holes of golf yesterday on the hottest day of the year I went down and netted and released these holigan so you could see their abundance. Just one swoop and a net full. You know me, I'm a rules guy and fishing them  here at Mile 14 would be illegal, they have to be taken in the ocean or the very lower river where the ones we ate came from. So here's how they look, one swoop, held them up for a photo op and dumped em back to continue their lives. You can actually see a dark ribbon of them along the shoreline as they move upriver.
So then you clean them up real good. They have this really weird black slime layer in the body cavity and that stuff just looks like something you don't want to eat, kinda like razor clam guts. So I took my time and get the 7 or so we were given perfectly clean.
Then MP gets out the old Alaska Sourdoughs Cook Book because she figures that those old homesteaders surely had to use this protein source and probably had a way to make them scrump dilly ishus. She uses a shake and bake type of recipe and then puts the pan in the oven at an angle so the oil they're famous for will drain off. They don't call them Candle Fish for nothing.
And oh boy, do those babies look good or what? It looks like my night is going perfect. I have fresh fish, a glass of nice Merlot and the Mariners are only down by 2 runs in the bottom of the 5th. I take my first bite and....oh man, it's deja vu all over again. They're not disgusting but they're a long way from being very good.

I guess we should have used old Woodrow's recipe. He said he'd make a foil pouch and steam them on the barbecue with some white wine, a dab of  real butter, some fresh chopped garlic and then a couple stems of fresh Basil....let em steam for 15 minutes then throw out the Holigan and eat the tin foil.


  1. So, I looked up candlefish on the internet and Eulachon is also a common name. I copied this part from the discription: "Eulachon were also processed for their rich oil. The usual process was to allow the fish to decompose for a week or more in a pit in the ground, then add boiling water and skim off the oil, which would rise to the surface. Eulachon oil (also known as "grease") was the most important product traded into the interior; as a result, the trails over which the trade was conducted came to be known as grease trails. Other uses of eulachon by non-Natives include bait for sportsfishing and food for cats and dogs." I guess it doesn't say anything about eating.......... We have the Atlantic version called smelt and they are very good deep fried. And maybe like Holigan, one meal a year is just fine!

  2. Goodness, Jeff. I remember dad cooking these and making us eat them. I hated it cuz he wanted us to eat them skin & all....sort of like his pickled salmon. I never could figure out how we survived it.