Our Fishermen

History of Iliamna Fish Co.

In 1946, our grandparents, Jack Vantrease and his wife, Lyn, packed up everything they owned and moved to Alaska. With a canvas tent and a few hand tools, Jack and Lyn homesteaded on the pristine shores of Lake Iliamna, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. In the summer of 1948, bursting with enthusiasm at the prospect of commercial salmon fishing in Bristol Bay, Grandpa reckoned with his first season of commercial fishing in an old, double-ended wooden sailboat. So began his & our whole family’s lifelong love affair with fish.

70 years later, the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery is still the center of our family’s life and work. Instead of being forced to give in to the market pressures of large-scale industrial fishing and fish farming, we, the grandchildren, re-organized the family fishing business into Iliamna Fish Company.

We applaud the work of organizations like the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Marine Stewardship Council, Ecotrust, and Salmon Nation. We look forward to passing on the tradition of sustainable, wild fishing to our children and to future generations of neighboring families.

Much as a knot binds the net, Iliamna Fish Company is bound to Bristol Bay and to its fishermen. We are an immediate and extended family of 25 members—an organization founded in and sustained by fish.

During the winters, some of us wear pilot’s helmets, some write grants, some make wine, some shoulder accountant’s briefcases, others wear mother’s aprons—but each member of our family is dependent on the annual harvest to sustain her or him. Apart from the costs of processing and shipping, every purchase from Iliamna Fish Company goes into the hands of the fisherman and back into Bristol Bay. This direct exchange builds trust with our customers and inspires us to provide the best product possible.

We are members of Salmon Nation, a Pacific coastal collective that recognizes the interdependence of our lives with the environment. We concur with Salmon Nation and believe that healthy salmon stocks act as a litmus to the environmental health of a region.

Our ambition is to reduce the distance between producer and consumer. Members of our fishing family host our various salmon share pickup locations around the country. We aspire to diligently represent our customers as faithful stewards of the ocean each harvest season.

Our Philosophy

Iliamna Fish Company is simply, almost quaintly, dedicated to providing the world’s best wild salmon. In a domestic market starved for premium wild sockeye salmon, we offer the finest available. We fish completely by hand, using small, 50 fathom nets. We fish out of 20-foot long skiffs, small craft that preserve the quality of our fish, because our fish are not crushed under hundreds of tons of other fish, or roughly-harvested with industrial machinery.

We carefully oversee the filleting and preparing of our fish for your table—we consider every fish a possible feast. We are devoted to fishing for a simple reason—we love fish. The hard work, the time with family, the salty air, and most importantly, the perfect, delicious beauty of wild, fresh fish. Because we are a third-generation fishing family, we are an integral part of a community, an economy, and an environment that we are committed to maintaining.

Where We Fish

Lake Iliamna, the terminal spawning grounds of our salmon, is the largest freshwater lake in Alaska. Our sockeye salmon are harvested out of Bristol Bay, which is near the mouth of the Kvichak River (which is the only outlet to the ocean from Lake Iliamna). Our family homestead is located at the north easternmost tip of the lake near the Iliamna River.

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