Bringing Alaska’s Red Gold to the land of 10,000 Lakes – Surrender Salmon!
Growing up in Alaska shaped every facet of who I am today. Those of us who are lucky enough to have been born and raised in the Last Frontier understand and appreciate the many wonders this great state has to offer. Fishing is one of those many wonders, and for me, it’s been a lifelong passion that has transformed into a business. As Alaskans, we know just how incredible our wild Alaskan salmon is, but does the rest of the world know? This is something I used to think about before I headed to Minnesota for college. Little did I know, that shortly after moving to Minnesota, my passion for educating people about what makes wild Alaskan salmon so great, would completely change the trajectory of my life.
I grew up fishing on my family’s boat, the Fishing Vessel (F/V) Surrender, in Bristol Bay – home of the world’s largest sustainable wild Sockeye salmon run. Each year, tens of millions of reds (Sockeye) pour into the bay and make their way up its many river systems. At the mouth of those rivers lies a fleet of fishermen, eager to fill their boats and feed the world (not to mention make some money). Fishing has been the cornerstone of my family life since I can remember. My dad started in the fishing industry in Alaska right out of high school, running a boat in the bay with his brothers. A few years, and boats, later – he built the F/V Surrender in 1996 and she has been supporting my family ever since. My two younger brothers and I grew up on the Surrender, and as soon as we were old enough to pull our weight as deckhands, my dad put us to work. Spending upwards of a month straight on a 32 foot fishing boat with your siblings and your dad, combined with rough seas, sea sickness and wind, sounds like a nightmare for most people. I’d be lying if I said there have never been times when I’ve questioned why I continue to go out on the boat every summer, but that’s usually when we’re in the middle of 24 hour fishing in perfect-storm kind of seas. Any negative thoughts I encounter out on the boat are quickly erased when I take the time to look around me, out on the water, and think about just how blessed I’ve been to have the opportunity to bond with my brothers while we’re out there busting our asses, catching the best salmon on the planet.
In 2011, I made the life-changing decision to leave Alaska and move to Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend Augsburg College. Though I left the state of Alaska, Alaska certainly never left me. I love the city life but each summer I felt a calling for adventure, to get out on the water and fish with my family. I love to fish, but selling fish was not something that was ever on my radar, ever. Things changed for me a few years into my time in Minnesota, when I discovered a problem that needed to be remedied.
Flash-forward to 2013, where I found myself fresh out of college, searching the coolers of a local grocery store in Minneapolis for some salmon to throw on the grill because I hadn’t brought down enough of the Surrender’s red gold to last me the entire year. “This just can’t be right?” I thought to myself as I scanned the seafood case. I saw Atlantic (farmed) salmon, selling for $22 per pound when our precious wild Alaskan salmon was priced at a meager $16? Surely the smart and capable people of Minnesota know that Atlantic (or Product of Chile, Norway, or Scotland) is code-word for farmed salmon and that they’re paying a premium price for an inferior product packed full of food coloring and pesticides.
See, like most Alaskans I’ve been blessed to grow up with access to the world’s BEST salmon, never once questioning if what I was eating was indeed real salmon or where it came from because, well, we caught it. Having to purchase salmon at the store was not something I had ever done before. Faced with over-priced farmed salmon, which seemed to be the popular choice that day – I experienced a bit of “lightbulb moment”. It was in that moment that I recognized the opportunity to bring my family’s salmon to Minnesota.
It all started with bringing back enough for family and friends, not enough to feed the masses but enough to get a pulse for the demand for Bristol Bay WILD Alaskan sockeye salmon, fisherman direct. The response was beyond what I could have ever imagined. Not only did people embrace the opportunity to buy salmon direct from the fisherman, the salmon was better than anything they had ever had before. My salmon began changing the way people thought about salmon. In Minnesota, salmon seems to be more of a delicacy, due to the fishy taste that’s associated with the majority of the salmon available in the Midwest. I made it my goal to show the people of Minnesota that wild Alaskan salmon can, and should be, a staple protein source – like chicken or beef. In January of 2017 Surrender Salmon, LLC was born. Our mission is simple, to provide Alaska’s finest and freshest wild Sockeye salmon to the great people of Minnesota.
Taking salmon seriously has been an adventure of a lifetime – not fishing in a small craft advisory storm kind of adventure – but one that I would never have envisioned coming to fruition when I packed my bags for Minnesota in 2011. The opportunity to bring my love for wild salmon, and Alaska in general, down to the “Lower 48” and share it with the people of Minnesota has been incredible. The salmon, and the story behind our company, has built a following that has quickly spread throughout the Twin Cities. I’ve even been able to include my family and close friends in the business, which makes me even more proud. We’ve created something has truly made a splash – salmon pun intended – in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and I’m beyond excited to see what the future holds for Surrender Salmon.
Fish on, Surrender!
-Grant Niver, Founder and Chief Salmon Ambassador – Surrender Salmon, LLC. Click HERE to learn more about their project, their crew, and their story!
Looking to cook your own sockeye salmon? Check out our easy Alaskan sockeye salmon recipe!