THE HEIRLOOM LIFE: Caught Wild: A Salmon Legacy

Published 9:00 am Thursday, December 28, 2017

Story by Melanie Hutti
Contributing writer

Living land-locked in Stanford, Kentucky, the possibility of buying wild-caught sockeye salmon from the fisherman himself seems laughable. However, if you have ever met Jason or Mary Beth McKinley, who currently reside on Main Street in our little town, you have had just that opportunity.

For 18 years, starting as a college adventure, Jason has said goodbye to his family and friends to travel to Bristol Bay, Alaska, for the seasonal salmon run. Sacrificing summers in Kentucky, Jason works as a commercial fisherman in the Egegik River district. Both Jason and Mary Beth embrace a passion for healthy, sustainable living, and decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime by starting their small business, Caught Wild Salmon.  

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Though the idea of salmon fishing in Alaska sounds like a romantic adventure, Jason will be the first to tell you it’s not the picturesque summer that people may imagine.

Contained on the small boat, The Dr. Jack, Jason spends hours on his feet without breaks while the fishing is good. With weeks at a time on the water, the boat life offers tight living quarters, with approximately a four by eight space for several men to reside. The fish is returned to a local cannery daily, where it is processed for flash freezing, which allows their product to be shipped to the lower forty-eight in a state as delicious as it was caught. With most of her time dedicated to raising two young sons, Mary Beth manages the business from Stanford. She takes care of filling salmon orders, delivers to local stores who stock their products, and handles many of the business aspects of Caught Wild.

The couple also visits several area markets, selling their packaged salmon as well as delicious salmon tacos and freshly made smoked salmon dip.

Even when the salmon run is over, business is year-round for Caught Wild. Both Jason and Mary Beth are dedicated to providing a sustainable, healthy product to a population who would typically not have access to wild-caught salmon. Their passion for their small business is contagious, and they have shared a bounty with my own 16-year-old son, who, they currently employ part-time.

Their boys may be small now, but I know that the McKinley’s will pass down a lifetime of experience to their own sons, yet another example of The Heirloom Life.  

More information is available online at and

Pan-seared sockeye salmon

Place salmon filets skin side up on a lightly greased pan over medium heat.

Give the pan a little shake right after you put on the salmon, so they are sure not to stick.

Once salmon is cooked halfway through, flip so skin side is facing down; you will see a distinct white line in the middle of the filet when it’s time to flip (about 7-10 minutes).

Turn off heat, cover, and let steam 8-10 minutes for medium doneness.