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Dirty jobs: Who cut the sturgeon?

Tryan Hartill, fish processor, Northwest Wild Products
By Luke Whittaker

The Daily Astorian

Published on February 23, 2018 3:33PM

Hartill said sturgeon are the messiest fish to process. “They have a poop sack that just clears the room and there’s always a lot of blood,” Hartill said.

LUKE WHITTAKER

Hartill said sturgeon are the messiest fish to process. “They have a poop sack that just clears the room and there’s always a lot of blood,” Hartill said.

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Northwest Wild Products seafood employee Tryan Hartill processes a variety of seafood during the year, from octopus to sturgeon. Hartill estimated to have cleaned more than 300 sturgeon over the past few years. He uses different knifes to get a clean cut and preserve as much fillet as possible.

Photos by LUKE WHITTAKER

Northwest Wild Products seafood employee Tryan Hartill processes a variety of seafood during the year, from octopus to sturgeon. Hartill estimated to have cleaned more than 300 sturgeon over the past few years. He uses different knifes to get a clean cut and preserve as much fillet as possible.

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Hartill estimated to have cleaned more than 300 sturgeon over the past few years. He uses different knifes to get a clean cut and preserve as much fillet as possible.

LUKE WHITTAKER

Hartill estimated to have cleaned more than 300 sturgeon over the past few years. He uses different knifes to get a clean cut and preserve as much fillet as possible.

Buy this photo

Who accounts for most of your business?

“It’s a pretty even mix right now of shipping, restaurants and retail. In summertime, the numbers are totally different. We just shipped a whole sturgeon overnight to a restaurant in to Dallas, Texas.”

How much did it cost to overnight an entire sturgeon to Texas?

“$149”

When is your busiest time of the year?

“July and August. We have salmon and tuna — everything kind of comes all at once. This time of year we’re scraping to get fresh product to keep the restaurant orders going. They want to use fresh salmon, which is steelhead right now.”

What all species of fish do you process throughout the year?

“There’s probably 50 including octopus, seabass, shark, tuna, salmon…Everything.”

Which is the messiest fish to clean?

“Sturgeon. They have a poop sack that just clears the room out and there’s always a lot of blood. It’s nasty. I don’t think there’s a messier fish than sturgeon to cut.”

What is the most unusual thing you’ve processed?

“Octopus is apretty unusual to cut.”

When did you clean your first sturgeon?

“Probably about seven years ago. I’ve probably cleaned 200 to 300 since.”

Is there one fish that’s particularly tedious?

“Probably halibut because it’s worth so much. It’s not difficult to cut but you really want to take your time on it because it’s a very high value fillet. And it’s a flatfish unlike your other fish.”

What mistakes do people often make when processing seafood themselves?

“They leave too much meat on the bone, especially with tuna. I’ve seen people throw away $20 in meat. Each fish requires a different knife. I use a shredder knife to get through the skin, then I use a fillet knife to get a clean cut and a cimeter knife at the end to cleanup the edges.”

What do you do with all the fish guts and salmon heads?

“It goes into a regular dumpster. We’re not as big as some of the canneries that will have a couple thousand pound dumpsters that are picked up and turned into fish food. We just don’t have the volume to have our own dumpster or pickup. We do give some to crabbers for bait.”





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