Tag Archives: Shirley N

Culture and Herring Eggs

Even though I am a brand new member of the the community, I heard the buzz and the word on the street : the herring eggs would be arriving from Sitka soon on the Shirley N. Hoonah is strongly tied to the forage of the ocean; many are dependent on the resources it provides for subsistence and cultural identity. After a long winter, the herring egg harvest is a sign of spring and welcome source of protein.  The Shirly N. arrived at 5 PM and the sun started to break through the clouds. From her hold containing thousands of pounds of fresh eggs came the first loads of branches laden with herring eggs. They were loaded into the back of waiting four-wheelers and brought to the elders in the community. The smiles on everyone’s face was infectious and the importance of the event was obvious! I was excited to take part the traditional herring egg harvest and learn about the significance of the resource to the people of Hoonah.

When herring spawn, their eggs attach firmly to strands of kelp and other structure in the water. Traditional harvesters use this to their advantage and strategically lay bows of hemlock in the water to collect the eggs so that they will stick to the branches. Timing is everything, and often the peak of the spawn may be detected by the color of the water which is turned white from the spawn of countless herring.  Once collected the  eggs may be used in salads, boiled, pickled, frozen, dried for future uses, or many other purposes. I personally enjoyed them parboiled with a side of rice and a slab of fresh king salmon. I found their texture to be excellent – like small kernels of corn popping in your mouth. They tasted salty and fresh, and now I know they are a sign of spring.

Herring Eggs are brought from the hold.

Herring Eggs are brought from the hold.

My small take of herring eggs in front of the Shirley N.
My small take of herring eggs in front of the Shirley N.
A large batch of herring eggs coming over board.
A large batch of herring eggs coming over board.
A hemlock branch laden with herring eggs!
A hemlock branch laden with herring eggs!
This hemlock branch has an amazing amount of eggs.
This hemlock branch has an amazing amount of eggs.
The atmosphere of the arrival of herring eggs is evident in the smiles.
The atmosphere of the arrival of herring eggs is evident in the smiles.
Passing a large branch of eggs.
Passing a large branch of eggs.
Holding up a large branch of herring eggs to see who needs them next. a
Holding up a large branch of herring eggs to see who needs them next. a
Happiness on the dock!
Happiness on the dock!
Herring Eggs on hemlock
Herring Eggs on hemlock
Herring Eggs on hemlock
Herring Eggs on hemlock