Sustainability and the health of our Salish Sea and waterways has long been an area of focus for the ownership and staff at Ray’s Boathouse. We’ve always worked to educate our team about what they are serving, where it came from and how it was caught or harvested. We visit our fishermen and women and other purveyors to see where our product comes from and how they run their businesses.
In the last year we partnered with non-profit Long Live the Kings (LLTK) to take an even larger role in the welfare of our local salmon runs so that generations to come can enjoy fresh wild salmon as we have. We are shifting our focus from one of sustainability to one that ensures our salmon populations increase as our city and infrastructure continues to grow and change.
Everything LLTK does is on behalf of improving the health and habitats of local salmon including three main areas: advancing science, improving management and implementing solutions.
Recently our team had the opportunity to sit down with the Executive Director of LLTK, Jacques White, for a lesson in salmon sustainability and the current state of our local runs, as well as updates regarding the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force which is helping to ensure they have enough wild salmon to survive.
In the early 1980s there were nearly 1,000,000 Chinook salmon harvested here compared to about 200,000 in 2010. The biggest factors affecting Salish Sea salmon populations are:
- Food sources (zooplankton and other salmon friendly nutrients)
Each of these plays a role in the reduction of salmon for various reasons and when compounded it’s easy to see why our local salmon are suffering.
There is no quick solution to this issue, but they have seen positive results in recent years including the ongoing restoration of Hood Canal summer chum. These fish were nearly extinct by the early 1990s but with the help of LLTK operating a conservation hatchery program to increase the abundance of naturally spawning summer chum, the number of adults returning to these rivers annually has increased from the 100s to well over 2,000.
LLTK is also actively involved in the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force developed recently to address population concerns for these whales. The task force made recommendations to Governor Inslee to protect orcas and aid in their recovery with 11 of the 36 recommendations influenced by LLTK’s Salish Sea Marine Survival Project!
Ray’s is dedicated to this cause and doing what we can to increase the populations of our local salmon. For us it starts at the team level getting everyone at Ray’s to understand the issues at hand and to be able to educate our guests.
We invite you to learn more and get involved in this journey with us at LLTK.org.
Images courtesy of Long Live the Kings.
A group of adventurous Ray’s team members recently climbed and summited Mt. Rainier in a three-day excursion! Our GM and Co-owner Doug along with our Boathouse Manager Nic, his partner Elizabeth, and restaurant staff Sarah, Alex and Joe.
Day one they left Paradise, WA at 11am and made it to Camp Muir at 5:30pm to set up tents on the ice. The next morning they broke down camp and climbed to Cathedral Gap then to Ingraham Flats to set up camp for the night. The next day was their summit push from Ingraham Flats to the summit and back and down to the car. Whew!!
Lots of hard work, good times and little sleep. While it wasn’t a guided tour our Manager Nic sure made the team feel at ease with his experience and certifications… this was his 38th summit(!): American Mountain Guides Association Alpine Guide Certified, Wilderness First Responder Certified, America Institute for Avalanche Certification Pro 2, and Explorer Scout Search and Rescue Volunteer.
Check out photos from their trip below and get an up close look at the majestic mountain in our backyard!
Ray’s has been sourcing and serving fresh, sustainably caught Northwest seafood directly from fishermen and women for decades. But no matter how long we do this we can never get enough knowledge about where our fish comes from and the people behind it. We have great respect for the men, women and families that have fished for generations, sometimes in treacherous conditions, to make a living and provide people with the freshest seafood available.
This love for connection and knowledge recently led our team to the crisp, cool waters of Sitka, Alaska to visit with some of our suppliers. On our first day we were welcomed with open arms by Lexi of Fish & Family Seafoods with a private dinner on Bamdoroshni Island (big thanks to Captain Gary of Sitka Adventures for ferrying us back and forth!). She immediately made us feel like part of her family and we enjoyed a beautiful dinner withLexi, her two children, her mother, mother-in-law and sister-in-law, with ingredients fresh from their local waters like kelp salsa and pickled beach asparagus (sea beans). We missed her husband and business partner at Fish & Family, Adam, who was out halibut fishing while we were in town.
Fish & Family Seafoods is a wild salmon purveyor and we were thrilled to be able to visit them at their home base to break bread, learn about their family, their history, their process, visit their fishing boat Myriad, and experience a bit more of what life is like for a fishing family with two small children. Hint: it’s not always easy. Lexi and the kids join her husband Adam and their two crew on salmon fishing trips aboard the Myriad throughout the summer. In the fall they join Lexi’s extended family to longline for halibut and black cod. Whatever the season, their lives involve lots of chasing both kids and fish!
We were also lucky to spend time with our partners and friends at Pacific Seafood who chartered a fishing boat with Big Blue Charters and took us out for a long day on the beautiful waters of Sitka Sound. We also toured Sitka Sound Seafoods to learn more about how they process their salmon, and we hosted a dinner where we served one of their gorgeous White King Salmon!
The trip also allowed us to explore Sitka, a place in Alaska none of us had been before. We took in a hike up Mt. Verstovia, a boat trip to Goddard Hot Springs, dinner at the Channel Club with some amazing King Crab and Champagne, as well as a beautiful dinner at Ludvig’s Bistro!
It was a packed trip and we loved every second of it. The people of Sitka are salt of the earth, good, kind people. They share their love of the land with everyone who passes through and we felt that kindness and hospitality radiate throughout our four days there.
You may not be able to hop a flight to Sitka anytime soon but you can taste the freshness of their wild salmon and the thoughtfulness with which it is caught and handled at Ray’s every day of the week.
Our adventurous Boathouse Manager Nic Reinig is an avid alpine climber and enjoys being in the mountains as much as possible when he isn’t here at Ray’s.
Nic has had the opportunity to climb and travel in Nepal in the past, but in 2018 his adventures took him on the climbing trip of a lifetime.
Nic and his partner, Elizabeth were invited to climb an uncharted peak in Northwest Nepal. It’s notoriously difficult to obtain a permit for unclimbed peaks, but his friend and climbing partner owns a Himalayan Guide Service, which allowed them to travel to the remote area.
This climb was truly the climb of a lifetime because the area in Northwest Nepal had previously prohibited ecotourism and very few westerners have been able to explore the area. Nic and Elizabeth were some of the first Americans to set foot on the isolated mountains; a climber’s paradise.
The 45-day expedition started in Kathmandu where they flew to Simikot, a village with the closest airstrip to the entrance of the valley that led to the mountains. From Simikot it took nearly two-weeks to hike through the Limi Valley, a distance of around 100-miles.
Accompanying their team of climbers were seven Sherpa guides as well as 11 mules to help carry food and supplies. Upon reaching the peak, Nic and the team established a base camp and scouted a route. After acclimating to the elevation, they pushed to higher ground and made camp where they would then attempt their summit.
Unfortunately, the group had to turn around at 17,400-feet due to waist-deep snow and dangerous avalanche conditions. The group of climbers certainly gave it their best efforts and were proud to accomplish what they already completed, not to mention enjoying the gorgeous sites of the Himalayas.
Any first ascent of an unexplored Himalayan peak has a very low chance of success and although the summit was the goal, the trip itself was an experience they will never forget!
With modern day Himalayan climbing, there are few places left in the world that are still unexplored. Nic and his group had the very lucky experience of such a grand adventure in 2018 and they look forward to what’s to come in 2019!
We’re so proud of you, Nic for reaching and pursuing your goals! Here’s to more adventures for everyone in the new year!
Please join us at Ray’s Café on Tuesday, September 25 as we celebrate the legacy and contributions of our beloved co-owner Elizabeth Gingrich who recently passed.
We will be offering a special a la carte menu of her favorite Ray’s dishes, dessert and cocktail from 11:30am to 9pm in the Cafe.
All proceeds from Elizabeth’s menu on this date will be donated to MultiCare Hospice of Tacoma where she was president of the board for five years and instrumental in establishing the program. We can also accept monetary donations to the hospice in the form of checks. Ray’s will match 100% of donations from the day!
Ray’s alumni will receive 10% off their Cafe bill that day (discount excludes the special menu), and are encouraged to share stories about Elizabeth and bring photos of her!
Elizabeth Gingrich Menu
Dungeness Crab Salad
Mixed Nut Tart
Bombay Sapphire Martini
Reservations strongly recommended. Contact the Cafe at 206.789.3770 or online to reserve today.
We are extremely saddened by the passing of our longtime co-owner Elizabeth Gingrich, who died peacefully with her family by her side. She lived a long and beautiful life and we feel so lucky to have been a part of it. Elizabeth became an owner of Ray’s in 1975, and was also a bookkeeper here for a few years. She loved being at the restaurant and working side-by-side with the staff during that time.
Elizabeth was often behind the scenes at Ray’s but the impact she made during her years as an owner shaped the core values of what Ray’s embodies and is what continues to guide us today. She was the person who instilled Ray’s with the family atmosphere and it was very important to her that everyone who worked at Ray’s was treated like family. The legacy she created has been practiced and carried on ever since, and it is the sole reason we’ve had countless loyal team members with us for more than 20 years.
Elizabeth retired her ownership from Ray’s last year and we had a wonderful send off with her and her daughter Jane, reminiscing about all of the fond memories from the last 43 years! Elizabeth, you will be greatly missed and Ray’s is forever shaped by your vision, hard work and passion.
Throughout our history at Ray’s we have been blessed with an incredible ownership team and a hardworking staff. The servers, bussers, bartenders, hosts, cooks, and dishwashers are the foundation of who we are and make each day at Ray’s possible.
We want to recognize Phil Mottet, a server of 36 years, and thank him for his incredible hard work and dedication to Ray’s. You will be missed by all, Phil! Enjoy retirement!
We honor Elizabeth Gingrich, an owner of Ray’s since 1975, as she retires her role. Elizabeth spent 42 years helping to guide Ray’s and celebrate both the hard working team and the loyal guest with much enthusiasm. She was our book keeper for a few years and still speaks of how much she enjoyed being in touch with the day to day staff. Thank you for your unique vision, hard work and care, Elizabeth!!
Our team had the exciting opportunity to visit the Copper River in Cordova, Alaska this May for the start of the Copper River salmon fishing season! Our GM Douglas Zellers, one of our owners and Ray’s Founding Partner Russ Wohlers, Executive Chef Paul Duncan and Executive Sous Chef Steve Hauch spent a week delving into the ins and outs of the fishing industry, talking with multi-generational Cordova fishermen and exploring the gorgeous local scenery.
A big thank you to Ocean Beauty Seafoods who were wonderful hosts to our team! They enjoyed a flyover of the Copper River and a tour of their processing facility.
Here are some highlights and insights from Alaska by our team, and a short video by our Executive Sous Chef Steve Hauch of the first Copper River catch!
Protect Your Environment: “You’re not just buying fish, you’re buying the life of a fisherman – Bill Webber Jr., Fisherman. ” Being immersed in a community that is 99.9% dependent on fishing is an eye opener. These fisherman are dependent on catching enough fish to pay their mortgage or buy clothes for their children. There was a real sense of anxiety as 500+ boats left the harbor, an air of anticipation as the reports trickled back in, and disappointment as they unloaded what was a very small catch even for an opener. However, the captains we spoke with were optimistic and in it for the long haul. They know the fish will hit, they just don’t know when. But the immediate impact of not catching fish is real.
Fresh and Safe Fish: Watching the entire process from an aerial flight over the fleet on the morning of the first opener, to watching the fish arrive via video at Rays in less than 18 hours was impressive. When we say we have fresh fish – we really have fresh fish. The Ocean Beauty supply chain was very well managed. The facilities and boats were all very clean and organized. The crews were all very friendly. It is a symbiotic relationship, we need each other to perform well. After all, what is Copper River Salmon without the story or the restaurant guests who are willing to pay for quality fresh fish.
Time Tested yet Looking Forward: Fishing in some fashion is as old as perhaps man himself. Some boats, captains, and crew certainly looked that part. However, without leaving that salty realm, other captains are deeply immersed in innovation. On one of his walks Russ made conversation with a gentleman named Bill Webber Sr. who was mending his nets in a parking lot. Low and behold he was the fisherman that worked with Jon Rowley back in the late 70’s and he caught and transported the Copper River Salmon to Rays for the ‘big show and tell’ in the early 80’s. As big as that state is, it still remains a close knit small community.
Bill Sr. Suggested we visit his sons boat “Paradigm Shift” and hear about the advances he is making in how the fish are cared for until they are delivered to your door. Bill Jr. gave us a short tour of his boat and explained some of the things that he is doing that should change the industry over time as people adopt them. Bill Jr. is an independent fisherman who sells his own catch via his website.
He told a tale that sounds like one you may read in a book: He is the son of a man who has lived and fished in Cordova for 60 years, he has been fishing since he could see over the rail, his wife does the books, he builds boats and fishing gear. But Bill Jr. is taking it forward. He has bar code tags for each fish he catches that links that fish through the supply chain and directly connects it to his on board inventory management spreadsheets. He has innovated an intravenous pressure bleeding system that removes all blood from the fish in about 20 seconds thus dramatically stalling the onset of deterioration, and he is working with transportation companies to get the product to the destination faster.
If you read his website you will notice phrases like lead by example, change the industry, and total quality. This is similar to the shift that Bruce Gore created in the late 70’s when he pioneered frozen at sea. Once we had that product we never looked at frozen fish the same again, and it eventually became standard. We can see the same thing happening with Bill Webber Jr.’s operation.
In Tom’s 20 year tenure he has seen many people, trends, and economic environments come and go. Tom has been instrumental in ensuring that Ray’s seafood restaurant has stayed the course and remained profitable, true to our brand, our guests, our team, and our purveyors. Thank you Tom for a great 20 years and all the best to you as we move forward together.
– Team Rays