Fish on a stick is ‘Taste Tested, Nature Approved’

Staff Writer
 The food court at Our Lady of Lourdes (OLOL) Catholic Church during the Arts and Crafts Fair will have some unique food for the pallette— try wild Alaskan fish.
 Coming from east Saint Paul, Jeff Murray, a friend of the Reverend Mark Innocenti of OLOL, will be selling grilled and deep fried salmon, cod and halibut which he caught in Alaska. “I’ve got something for everybody,” said Murray, whose logo is “Taste Tested, Nature Approved.”
 Besides living in the Twin Cities, Murray also has a home in Sand Point, Alaska, which is 500 miles west of Anchorage on the Shumigin Islands. “I’ve been fishing a long, long time,” said Murray.
 What’s a long long time? About 30 years.
 Murray and Innocenti grew up together, eventually parting ways after high school. “I went north and he went for priesthood,” said Murray, “but we’ve always stayed friends.” Innocenti has even been up to Alaska a few times, although Murray didn’t originally journey to Alaska to be a commercial fisherman. He just wanted to check out the mountains.
 While working at a cannery, Murray lived in a tent on a hill. Every day at work he would watch the fishermen coming in, all of whom were making more money than he was. Thinking he’d rather catch fish than can them, Murray volunteered to help out one of the local fishermen. Within minutes of stepping onboard, he was puking until he got back to dry land. However, he was offered a job, much to his surprise.
 “I went from there to the Bering Sea and crabbed,” he related. On deck for four years, Murray worked his way into the wheel house as a captain.
 In 1984, the fisherman bought his first salmon permit, “and I’ve been doing that ever since,” he said. As a professional fisherman, he had a fishing business in Hawaii for five years, and later ran “The Salmon Shop” in Seattle at the seafood market for awhile.
 Murray then moved back to the Midwest, where he runs a wholesail/retail fish business in the Twin Cities. “It’s basically from the boat to the customers,” said Murray, who goes up to Alaska about three times a year, which is less traveling than he used to do since  marketing fish is becoming more popular in the U.S. He believes that wild fish taste better, and are healthier than farm fish.
 Murray also has two boats in Alaska, where he’s the captain of one— The Eastwind, a 1935 classic boat— and the Bluefox, which is run by a hired captain.
 The fisherman explained how the fish are caught. First the fishermen anchor a net in the water,  which they then run along with a skiff. Once the fish are caught, they’re bled and then put into totes, which contain water in ice (also called icebleeding) so the fish don’t get bruised. Then they immediately go to the processor.
 “We’re very environmentally friendly,” said Murray. “We’re more concerned that there are going to be runs for the future  than finances.”
 Murray, the father of two daughters, said he’s trying to get his stand into the State Fair. While at the Washington County Fair this year, he said people loved the concept of wild Alaskan fish, especially on a stick. “It’s all natural all the time,” he said. “My job is better than working. Everyone around here is glad to get to go fishing on the weekend; I get to do it for a living, so I feel pretty lucky. But, I still like to catch walleyes.”
 Murray’s food stand will come to the Arts and Crafts Fair a day early for the people coming to set up. “We just want to bring the best quality of Alaskan seafood to Minnesota,” he said. “We guarantee it’s good because it’s right off of my boats.”

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