Why It’s Time to Reinvent the Fish Stick

In the age of disruptive food brands and overhauled ingredient lists that feature real, whole foods, finding convenient ways to get healthy fish protein into kids (and adults, for that matter) without breadings and added sugars has long remained a mystery. Sure, we’ve seen fish sticks ‘made over’ in the aisles of natural foods stores to incorporate gluten-free batters and breadings, but none have gone so far as to reinvent the basis of the same fish stick we’ve seen in frozen food aisles for the past 60 years. Until now.

But, do kids even like fish? Will they eat it if it isn’t a battered, fried conduit for ketchup?

For the past year, we’ve stood in the aisles of natural foods stores all over California, serving up samples of our fillets of wild Alaskan coho salmon, seasoned with lemon pepper and garlic - a healthy, sustainably sourced, and simple-to-cook option for people looking to incorporate more fish into their diets. We would often hear, “is this fish wild?” and “where does it come from?” to which we would respond “yes, it’s wild-caught Alaskan salmon” and “on the side of the package you can see exactly where and how your fish was caught!”

Now, those two questions we expected, as we knew that many shoppers are concerned about both of those pieces of information when it comes to buying fish (as we are ourselves!), and we put that information right on our packaging exactly for that reason. But here is what we didn’t expect - that just about every mom or dad pushing a shopping cart with a young child (or two) alongside them to remark, “Oh salmon! My kids LOVE salmon!” and happily share their sample with their kid, much to both parent and kid’s delight.

 

Light bulb.

So why, we asked ourselves, are there no healthy, convenient salmon products on the market for kids (and adults) that are as dippable and delicious as the fish stick that has been on dinner plates since the 1950s? And why isn’t anyone using “fish sticks” (or some form of them) as a conduit not just for tartar sauce and ketchup, but for educating kids about where their seafood comes from? It’s about time that changed.

 

As a team of female entrepreneurs who came together to drive change in an outdated seafood industry and to improve access to sustainable and traceable seafood, we knew this product was right down the heart of the plate for us. We got to work quickly, and through a collaborative effort with moms across the country, developed Salmon Bites for Kids - bite-sized finger foods packed with omega 3s, healthy protein, and hidden veggies that as it turns out, kids love to eat. Combining wild-caught Alaskan salmon, broccoli, and sweet potato makes a naturally gluten and dairy free, non-GMO, snack with no added sugars that fills kids up with clean ingredients that parents can’t get enough of. Not to mention, they’re as easy to toss in the oven as chicken nuggets, and adults love them too.

Salty Girl Seafood Salmon Bites for Kids

Salty Girl Seafood Salmon Bites for Kids

What’s more, all of the fish in our Salmon Bites is sourced with the same sustainability and traceability standards our company has become known for and that you, as a consumer, deserve. That means that we tell you where and how your fish was caught right on the box, providing a great way to educate our youngest consumers about where their seafood comes from. No more mystery fish. Half the number of ingredients of standard fish sticks. And all of the benefits of teaching your kids about where their food comes from.

We believe this is just the beginning of disrupting this age-old category and with new, fun ways of getting healthy fish protein and omega-3s into kids.

It’s high time we started our kids off on the right foot with high quality seafood where the value-add actually serves to fuel their growing bodies and brains. And with a healthy start to their seafood experience and an early connection to where their food comes from, we’re launching a generation of American kids who will not only eat more fish, but feel empowered to make good decisions about where they get it!

Salmon Bites for Kids will hit shelves this July! Check out our Where to Buy page for more information about where to find Salty Girl Seafood and sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when we are coming to a store near you!

Salty Girl of the Month: Corey Wheeler Forrest, Rhode Island Fisherman

 

Since we launched Salty Girl Seafood, one of the first things that people say is how much they love the name. Often we are asked, what does it mean to be a Salty Girl?  

salty: of the sea, sailing or life at sea.

This is a series of blogs honoring our kindred Salty Girls--women whose lives and livelihoods revolve around all things ocean.

 

meet Corey wheeler Forrest, a Rhode Island fisherman.

Our Salty Girl for the month, Corey Wheeler Forrest, holds a particularly special place in my heart -- she and I were born and raised in the same small town in New England -- Little Compton, RI. I remember seeing Corey and her family working their trap site from the deck of my own family’s boats as we headed out for the day, or mending their gear in their big grassy field on the way to check the surf.  As a third generation fisherman, Corey’s connection to the sea is in her blood; a tradition she began passing on to her two kids from the time they were babies. Her family’s unique style of fishing has been around for ages but their sites are some of the few still operating this incredibly passive and sustainable way of catching fish. Even though Corey must balance a lot of roles every day (fisherman, mother, daughter, wife, business owner), the grounding and sense of self that she derives from the sea and this way of life is unmistakable. We hope you are as inspired by Corey’s story as much as we are, and be sure to check out her beautiful and entertaining Instagram account @fishandforrest.

Tell us a little about yourself and your business.

I'm a married, mother of two, third generation commercial trap fisherman. I fish and handle/sell all the fish for my family's two floating fish trap companies and my brother's day-boat. "Trapping" is a unique fishery to Rhode Island, only a few of us still fish this way and it's been around for hundreds of years. It's a really cool, sustainable and passive fishery.  We are licensed to set in the same spots every year off the coast of Little Compton and Newport.  If the fish come to us we catch them, if they don't, we don't. The floating fish traps are like a giant Aquarium, held in place by 26 500-900 lb anchors, where fish are funneled into the "head" of the trap where they can't escape. Everything is alive so anything we can't keep is thrown right back into the water to swim away. It's really labor and equipment intensive, which is probably why not too many people still do this. As my dad says, "if it were easy, everyone would do it."

Who first got you hooked on the sea?

My family. I think it's just embedded in me. Growing up there were fishy work clothes hanging in the hall, a beat up pick-up truck in the driveway, fishing gear in the back yard. We didn't have a swing set, we made forts out of lobster pots. Our conversations always revolved around working the sea, and it still does.

What does a "normal" day in your life look like?  

I'm up by 4am. Coffee, sunscreen, organize myself. I check my emails and texts. It's pretty normal to already have texts from my buyers at the Fulton Fish Market. I'm at the dock around 5:30 am. We leave the dock at 6am, haul 1 to 3 traps (some years we've set more traps), we're usually back at the dock 9-11am where we sort, ice, box and ship fish. My brother hops on his 42 foot gillnetter as soon as we get in and hauls his sets. So I handle all his fish as well. I sell to wholesale markets from Toronto to South Carolina. The Fulton Fish Market gets the fish that night and I've heard stories about my fish still being alive in the box. I'm usually home by 4pm but I also have state required fish reports that I do at home. It's all-consuming mentally and physically and it's definitely hard to find balance at home this time of year. It's gotten easier as the kids, Finn 14 and Isley 10, have gotten older, and more independent; it's a team effort with my husband for sure (he's not in the fishing industry). When they were young I brought them to work with me. While they were babies and nursing, I took a few years off from being on the boat and just handled the dockside of things. I had every baby carrier they made! I look back and I don't know how I did it.  

 
"While they were babies and nursing, I took a few years off from being on the boat and just handled the dockside of things. I had every baby carrier they made! I look back and I don't know how I did it. "  - Corey Forrest

"While they were babies and nursing, I took a few years off from being on the boat and just handled the dockside of things. I had every baby carrier they made! I look back and I don't know how I did it. " - Corey Forrest

 

What has been the greatest lesson you've learned from the ocean and what lessons do you want your daughter to learn from the ocean?

We are all EQUAL on the ocean and the ocean does not discriminate...

The ocean can be welcoming and serene, unpredictable and exploding, poetic and playful, and also break and crush you. (James Joyce called the sea "scrotumtightening")! The ocean doesn't give a SHIT about your gender,  how tough you think you are, where you come from, your college degree, family name, socioeconomic class, what God you worship, where you shop or the kind of car you drive. The ocean is a powerful teacher when you realize you are not in control; you get to know yourself pretty well - mind, body, heart, and soul when you are  simply existing, adapting, and keeping afloat.

 I nearly got crushed falling overboard between two boats on a big seas day... it happened about 20 years ago; it plays slow motion in my mind though it was probably seconds before I was hauled back onboard by a dozen hands. Our Captain at the time (who undoubtedly had doubts about a woman being onboard), legendary trap fisherman and the famous "kissing sailor",  George Mendonsa, said to me, "did your boots fill up with water?...[yes]  NOW you're a real fisherman."

 
 

Who has been an inspiration to you in your life and why?

Definitely my dad. He just turned 70, looks 40 and acts 14. His enthusiasm and passion for everything is contagious and borderline manic. And I definitely couldn't do what I do without him. He pushes me, makes me laugh, infuriates me and often has more confidence in me than I do in myself.  

 
"[My dad] pushes me, makes me laugh, infuriates me and often has more confidence in me than I do in myself."  - Corey Forrest 

"[My dad] pushes me, makes me laugh, infuriates me and often has more confidence in me than I do in myself." - Corey Forrest 

 

When you close your eyes and think about your favorite time on the water, what do you see? 

Weirdly, my favorite time on the water is probably when I've been the most scared: falling overboard or a squall with hurricane force winds, bolts of lightning. Being enveloped and feeling absolutely helpless and insignificant in all her strength and beauty is really humbling and puts things into perspective.  

What does being a Salty Girl mean to you?  

Feeling the pull of the sea and never being able to stay away, like being homesick.

 
 

Favorite sea quote?  

It's very hard to choose but : "Fish," he said softly, aloud, "I'll stay with you until I am dead." Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea.

Is there a Salty Girl in your life? Email us to share her story with us and nominate her as a monthly Salty Girl!

Salty Girl of the Month: Nelly Hand, Drifters Fish

Since we launched Salty Girl Seafood, one of the first things that people say is how much they love the name. Often we are asked, what does it mean to be a Salty Girl?  

salty: of the sea, sailing or life at sea.

This is a series of blogs honoring our kindred Salty Girls--women whose lives and livelihoods revolve around all things ocean.

It’s hard not to fall totally in love with Nelly, her husband, their salmon business (Drifters Fish), and their sweet VW van. From a day of hard work on the water, to marketing their catch directly to businesses around the country, to preparing some really gorgeous meals, Nelly makes balancing all of these seemingly disparate tasks look effortless. Like so many of our Salty Girls, life on the ocean runs in her family. After growing up spending summers fishing, it made sense that she’d one day forge out on her own.  Nelly and her husband, Michael, belong to a generation of fishermen who know the power of a good story and are finding ways to share their story with salmon lovers around the country; bringing people together over good food and stories of wild places. The work they do and the way in which they share their craft with the world is exactly why it’s important that fishing--our final pursuit of wild food--maintains its vital place in the culture and history of our country.

Check out their absolutely beautiful Instagram account @DriftersFish.

Nelly Hand, Salty Girl of the Month

SG: Who first got you hooked on the sea?
NH: My family. I started fishing with my dad on our family boat the Orion. My brothers and I were the crew and every summer we worked with dad fishing for pink salmon in Prince William Sound, Alaska. There are so many reasons why I love living and working on the water. I love the lifestyle of commercial fishing and the community it creates. I love working with my hands and even though the work is physically and mentally draining, whenever I catch my breath and look around - the mountains and the place we get to work is just incredible.

SG: When you’re not on the ocean, what are you doing?
NH: I spend time building Drifters Fish, a business my husband Michael and I created to sell our catch direct. During the winter I work distributing our frozen and smoked wild salmon around Western Washington. In the summer, I’m working on our little gillnet boat harvesting wild salmon and shipping the fish direct to restaurants across the US. When I’m not working on Drifters Fish, I try to get outside, hiking or harvesting wild food, as often as I can.

Drifters Fish, Salty Girl of the Month

SG: What has it been like to see Drifters become a reality?
NH: It has been so exciting and a lot of hard work to see Drifters Fish become a reality. I’ve loved the challenge of developing a business and the opportunity to creatively share about our livelihood and Alaska’s incredible seafood. We launched Drifters Fish in 2014 with the intention of creating a business to sell our catch direct from the fisherman to the consumer. Michael and I had both been involved with commercial fishing several years prior to launching Drifters and both had the shared enthusiasm of being more involved with the fish we were catching. We started sharing fish with friends and neighbors and then with further interest from more folks, we started to grow. We now run a Community Supported Fishery in Western Washington as well as ship fresh, wild salmon in the summer season direct to restaurants.

SG: When you close your eyes and think about your favorite time on the water, what do you see?
NH: Mid-June and Michael and I are in the busiest part of our fishing season. The days are getting so long in Alaska and we’re fishing around the clock for sockeye salmon. It’s eleven thirty at night and the sun is still glowing in the sky and the mountains are lit up. As tired as we are, I love this time of year and the rhythm we’ve settled into of working together out on the water and the daylight that seems to last forever.

Nelly Hand, Salty Girl of the Month

SG: What does a healthy ocean look like to you?
NH: Oceans provide the world with an incredible bounty and resource for healthy, wild protein. A healthy ocean is one being harvested respectfully and with care to protect and restore the valuable surrounding ecosystem. We all can work together towards a healthy ocean by supporting local, American small scale fisheries that practice sustainable harvesting.  

SG: What do you never leave home without?
NH: A moleskin notebook. These books are my every day. Grocery lists, business notes for Drifters Fish, recipes to make on the boat, and a place to press all those roadside wildflowers.  

Is there a Salty Girl in your life? Email us to share her story with us and nominate her as a monthly Salty Girl!