Klawock’s Wildfish Cannery Offers a Taste of Alaska History
In 1878, the rural Southeast community of Klawock hissed and clicked to the industrious rhythm of Alaska’s first salmon cannery. Today, Wildfish Cannery upholds that colorful tradition while canning top quality seafood with a modern taste. “Our approach is unique,” explains Mathew Scaletta, owner of Wildfish Cannery. “Traditionally, canning was reserved for low quality fish. We are taking a craft approach to it and are using the highest quality fish. We are making a luxury product whereas, historically, canned salmon was a commodity and more about mass quantity.”
White king, red king, coho, sockeye and geoduck are all part of Wildfish’s lineup, and the family-owned company sources all its fish from local fishermen on Prince of Wales Island. In addition to selling their own canned products, Wildfish celebrates a long history of custom processing. They transform commercial and subsistence-caught seafood into delicately smoked and beautifully packaged cans for residents and visitors. They even pick up and process orders sent by regional air. “We have a good reputation and a loyal following. There are folks who have been coming back every year since we started smoking in 1987,” says Scaletta.
What’s been drawing folks back to Wildfish for three decades? Grandma, of course. Scaletta’s savvy Grandma, Phyllis Mueller, perfected the smoking recipe that they still use today. “She taught me all of her secrets,” he chuckles. “She spent a lot of time and energy honing the craft, learning her smokers and fine tuning technique, because it’s definitely not as simple as throwing your fish into some big industrial smoker. There’s a knack to it and it’s different than traditional smoking in a smokehouse. We are still doing the same thing Phyllis perfected years ago. I haven’t messed with it.”
Scaletta believes that their most unique offering this gift-giving season is the canned and smoked geoduck. “It’s something that’s new to our lineup and something you don’t see very often. So much of the geoduck industry here is harvested and shipped overseas, and one of our ideas at Wildfish is to take those products harvested in Alaska and make them available and affordable to Alaskans.”
He also recommends the white king salmon. Both, he says, are fantastic contributions to any Alaska charcuterie board. What should you pair them with? Scaletta keeps it real. “A can of salmon and beer is a really good combination, that’s what I recommend.”
One final reason you should consider a gift of Wildfish this season: the packaging. Talented Alaskan illustrator, Michaela Goade’s artwork graces the Wildfish labels. “I was really impressed with Michaela’s artwork for our label because she was able to draw a geoduck that was flattering,” Scaletta laughs. For those of us who have seen the rather uncomfortable and peculiar shaped geoduck first hand, that’s no easy feat.
> Wildfish Cannery offers a taste of Alaska history by canning top quality seafood smoked with Grandma Phyllis’ crowd-pleasing recipe and wrapping it all up in one beautiful package. You can pick up their products at The Port in Juneau, Sitka Sound Science Center in Sitka, at the Cannery in Klawock by appointment or online at wildfishcannery.com