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Sustainable Harvest, Superior Product
Spending the warm summer months feeding in the Northwest Passage, the char migrate to the freshwater lakes in the fall and stay over winter. The prime fishing season starts in mid-August and ends just before mid-September when the rivers and lakes start to freeze over. Typically, around 80,000 pounds of char are harvested based on quotas set annually for each body of water by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Starting their Journey
During the early fall, when temperatures drop close to freezing, our producers start their yearly operations, setting up their fishing camps. The camps are usually a short float plane ride from the community, out on the tundra where animals such as muskox and polar bear roam freely. It’s here that the revered Arctic Char start their journey to you.
Modern Families, Ancient Techniques
Different camps harvest their catch in different ways. At the Ekuluk camp, a small team of fishermen live in small huts, net fishing along the shoreline. Many bring their families with them to share in the experience. It is a quiet but busy time spent fishing, maintaining gear, preparing meals and hunting the odd caribou or muskox.
At the Jayco River camp, an ancient method of fishing called a ‘weir’ is used. A weir is an underwater fence that is set up in a V-shape. It comes in from two sides in a channel, directing the fish into a catch basin. A weir is one of the best methods of catching fish. It allows them to swim freely into the area, causing very little stress and thus a better quality of fish. This is a method that has been passed down to many fishers by their forefathers for a millennia.
Ensuring the Highest Quality
At all camps, the fish are immediately cleaned on stainless steel tables that are set up at the waters edge. The chilly arctic air adds to the pristine quality of the fish. Multiple times a day, float planes haul back the day’s catch to the processing plant in Cambridge Bay.
When the fish arrive at the plant, they are assigned a batch number to ensure quality control and proper following of quotas. The fish are first put through a two-step cleaning and quality control process in fresh water. Then, the fish to be sold fresh are packed in ice for shipping and others are set aside for hot and cold smoking, jerky and other methods of preparation for our various char products. Most of the char, however, are prepared for freezing. After being frozen overnight, they are dipped quickly in fresh water to create a glaze that ensures that the char arrive at market in the best possible condition. The frozen char are graded by weight and packaged in a plastic lined cardboard box to further ensure their freshness.
Fresh to You
To begin the final leg of their journey to you, the char are shipped out of Cambridge Bay on the first available flight. With regular deliveries to major Southern cities, char lovers can be sure they are receiving the freshest product possible of Truly Wild Arctic Char.