White Cane Salmon Co. is a Pilgrim's Market exclusive, premium quality, wild caught and sustainable salmon company. You cannot find this delectable salmon anywhere else in North Idaho except a couple of restaurants in Coeur d'Alene. Here at Pilgrim's we sell vacuum sealed frozen sockeye fillets. Owner Randy Houghton sells exclusively to Pilgrim's now in his semiretired state because he loves that we are locally owned and has formed a great relationship with Bob, our meat manager and store owner, Joe. What makes this salmon so special is the care and quality control from catch and throughout the entire process. I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with owner Randy and hearing his amazing story. He is a family man full of integrity, hard-work and he is very passionate about fishing. He is legally blind but this does not define him.
He named the company after his boat, ‘The White Cane.’ This refers to the white cane that he uses while navigating the fishing boat. He says that while steering the boat into Bristol Bay, Alaska, everyone knew it was him by the white cane he held on top deck. Randy is now retired from fishing but he is still hands on throughout the processing and distribution of the wild caught fish. While he was attending college for an art degree, he was diagnosed with Macular Degenerative disease. He slowly lost his vision and this devastated his budding art career. However, to this day, Randy is still an artist and has built an art studio where he relies on magnification for vision. Randy was an athlete in High School and began fishing with some of his fellow athlete friends on one of their father's boats. Then he bought his first fishing boat and equipment with 3 other fishermen friends.
At this point in his story, he was fishing in Alaska. "Everything was a mess and needed a lot of work," Randy recalls. A bunch of young athletes were living on the barge together. They were shooting ducks and catching fish for food and they would use a 55 gallon oil tank as a pot stove to cook their meals! This went on for 2 years and they stayed in business together for 7 years. Then in 1980, Randy and his brother went off on their own, bought their own skiff and began fishing out of Bristol Bay. In 1990, Randy's brother retired and he bought him out. "Twenty years ago, I started doing my own fish by hand filleting," says Randy. What makes the fish maintain its freshness is that they vacuum seal the fillets right after they are processed. They hand pick the biggest fish and put on ice while they maintain 32-34 degrees on the boat. Then they hand fillet and vacuum seal. "Fresh state to fillets in 2 days," Randy says with pride. I asked Randy about his fishing practice and sustainability. He shares that it is in the Alaskan constitution to manage and sustain the fishing industry for future generations.
His crew upholds this constitution to the tee. This ensures that the salmon can complete their 4 year life cycle. Salmon eggs are hatched in fresh water where they swim upstream for 2 years. Then the salmon complete their life for 2-3 years in the cold-water oceans. Sockeye salmon is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and an integral part of a healthy heart, and brain. Randy's favorite way of preparing sockeye salmon: Slowly sauté in butter onions and garlic. Add brown sugar, leeks, olive oil, and seasonings. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add the salmon fillet to the same pan and bake for about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.
Come on in to Pilgrim's Market and pick up some of White Cane Salmon, while supplies last!