KODIAK, Alaska — Eagle River resident Zach Shlosar loves smoking fish for fun and is considering turning it into a business.
To find out whether or not it is something he wants to pursue commercially, he spent three days this month at a fish smoking and salting workshop hosted by the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center.
Shlosar smoked his first fish around seven years ago.
"It was curiosity... it turned out well enough that my friends were blown away and encouraged me to start a business," Shlosar said. "I'm here to look into it on a larger scale."
Shlosar wasn't the only one from outside of Kodiak to attend the workshop. In total, there were 14 participants, and only two were from Kodiak. The rest came from other parts of Alaska, Washington and North Carolina.
Joseph Doll and his wife Beverly Frye heard about the workshop from a professor at North Carolina State University who knew one of the workshop's instructors.
Doll owns a sturgeon farm that specializes in caviar. He sells sturgeon meat that isn't used in the caviar process and wants to learn how to offer the meat another way.
"We've always known we wanted to smoke sturgeon," Doll said.
While some, like Doll, were new to smoking fish, others were lifelong users of the method and just wanted to learn how to do it commercially.
Pam Riddle, a Naknek resident, has worked for fish for 30 years. She even surprised everyone in the workshop by offering to teach them how to salt and smoke the leftover fish heads. Riddle attended the workshop to learn how to turn smoking fish into a business.
"If there is something you can do with fish, I'll try it," Riddle said. "I want to know the process, the commercially correct process to do it for profit."
During the three-day workshop, participants learned the principles of smoking fish, how to ensure food safety, principles of fish salting and drying, and the production of products.
"We have many motivated fish lovers here trying to understand the art, science and safety of smoking fish," said participant Torie Baker, who works with the state's marine advisory program in Cordova.
Participants spent Nov. 15 in lectures, and spent the rest of the time practicing their technique in the seafood center's workshop. They learned to salt and brine fish for hot-smoking, fillet fish for curing and cold-smoking, make and smoke salmon sausage, and can and jar pickled fish.
Alexandra Oliveira, associate professor of seafood chemistry for University of Alaska Fairbanks, was one of the teachers. She said the workshop was designed to give everyone hands-on experience.
"The idea is to spend the majority of the time producing products," Oliveira said. "Everybody has a chance to be creative with their own brines, then they get to taste the products, package them and take them home."
This is the second time this year that the KSMSC has offered the workshop. Oliveira said there is a possibility it will be offered again next year.