SOUTHBORO – For almost 20 years, Josh Pierson has spent his summers in Alaska fishing for wild red salmon.
He started as a sailor in a boat after college before buying his own fishing boat, "Full Scale," eight years ago. Some of his catches arrive in New England every year and are sold through his business, Papa’s Catch Salmon, online and on farms, stores and local markets.
"It's incredibly thin and the fat in there is really good for you," he said. "It's the kind of fats that doctors want you to eat."
The fish is sustainably caught in Bristol Bay, which claims to have the largest red salmon every year, and processed by Silver Bay Seafood, owned by fishermen, said Mr. Pierson, 41. Bristol Bay is the easternmost arm of Bering Sea, with most of Mr. Pierson's time spent near the Egegik River.
"I arrived there in mid-June and we touched the water and started fishing," he said. "We are on the ship for about five weeks without leaving."
During the rest of the year, Mr. Pierson works as an associate director of high school counseling at Fay School.
Previously, Pierson only sold his fish through a cooperative, but Papa & # 39; s Catch started three years ago to bring fresh fish to New England. While Mr. Pierson did not disclose the amount of fish that the company usually catches in a summer, he has between 5% and 10% of what he catches sent to Massachusetts.
"We continue to grow here and expand our market," he said. “We were not a wholesale distributor when we started. We only retail to customers. Now, we have six or seven wholesale accounts in New England. "
Their fish is sold locally at Chestnut Hill Farm in Southboro and Debra’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, among other places in New England. Mr. Pierson will be a seller at Fay School Farmers Market, which will take place from September 21 to October 26. Advance orders will be taken in September while the fish is still being shipped.
New this year, Papa & # 39; s Catch offers fish in 6-ounce portions along with complete steaks.
Mr. Pierson's summer adventure began after graduating from Williams College in 2000.
"I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life," he said. "I went there on a whim with a friend and we had a great experience."
He spent 12 years working with Captain Barney Johnson before he could buy his own fishing boat. He still works with two of his university friends: Marc Barreda, business partner, and Adam Nesbit, who works on the ship.
"Every summer I told myself that I would not return and that it was over," he joked. "It's miserable sometimes."
Hours after being caught, the fish are taken to a processing facility through a supply boat where they are cut into fillets, boned, vacuum packed and quickly frozen at minus -20 degrees Fahrenheit a few hours after being caught .
"I think what many people fear with frozen salmon is that they think it is a lower quality fish if it is frozen," Pierson said. "If you freeze it immediately after you've caught it, it's as good as making it fresh."
He likes to meet customers and offer advice on how to cook salmon because the fish is very lean compared to Atlantic salmon. You can cook on the grill, oven or stove. Fish should be cooked right after defrosting.
"I really like to cut it into portions and be able to see it cook from the bottom up and you can really control how well it cooks," he said. "You wear your skin very well."
One of the most difficult parts for Mr. Pierson is being away from his wife, Kay, and their two children, Lena, 10, and Cole, 6, for almost two months each summer.
But he expects them to join him when the children are older.
"I plan to continue doing this for quite some time," he said.