Ketchikan, Alaska’s “First City,” is an island reached by plane or boat. A popular cruise port, tourists flood into the city daily to view the artwork along the waterfront of the Inside Passage, the Native American totem poles, and to savor the variety of fresh seafood in a city that is known as the Seafood Capital of the World.
It’s home to black bears, wolves, and bald eagles, and some of the most spectacular scenery in the U.S. The temperate rainforest keeps the air moist and the flora and fauna thriving. Then there are the waters that provide daily sightings of whales, puffins, and other sea life, and the fresh catches that feed the tourists and residents.
Tourism and commercial fishing are the two main industries in Ketchikan, so it’s easy to find fresh-off-the-boat halibut, salmon, lingcod, and other seafood choices at the local restaurants.
I was invited to visit the nearby Steamboat Bay Fishing Lodge on Noyes Island for a women’s fishing expedition (my first trip since coronavirus). On the way, we stayed in Ketchikan and sampled some of the fresh seafood for ourselves. While Ketchikan may boast that it’s the Salmon Capital of the World, you’ll find many more seafood options being celebrated at the restaurants — halibut is one favorite for local chefs, and it’s my new favorite fish after tasting it, whether it’s wrapped in bacon, slathered in a wine and butter sauce, or stuffed with crab.
When asked why there are so many halibut options in a city known for its salmon, Chris LeMond, corporate chef for Cape Fox Corporation, explained, “I like to sell halibut because the locals are burned out on salmon. Honestly, they eat salmon all the time. Tough problem to have, I know! I think that halibut is a big seller because not everybody can get out to get halibut. I mean, you have to go way out there. Salmon come in the streams and everybody gets them. So you can go right down to the stream and you can fish and catch salmon. But for halibut, you have to be in the boat, you have to go out, and you have to drop. It’s a patience thing.”
The restaurants in Ketchikan generally focus on what’s in season and what the fishermen are catching. So menus change based on what’s coming off the boats.
“I think the real seafood that comes out of here — in addition to salmon — is the prawns and the halibut and the yellow eye rockfish, and lingcod is really popular when it’s in season. When you can put lingcod on the menu, a lot of people around here treat it as a little bit of a treasure.”
Ready to taste some of the delicious seafood LeMond is talking about? Here’s where to go to get it.