Fishing, foraging, and farming on Washington State’s Long Beach Peninsula will provide you with everything you need for a foodie adventure. From fishing the seas to shopping the farmer’s markets, it’s truly authentic. The people are down-to-earth and the food is as local as it gets.
Located on a long strip of beach in southwestern Washington, the Long Beach Peninsula is a place where young entrepreneurs can get a start. Salt Hotel and Pub, the motel where I stayed, represents one of young dreams. Laila Brown and her husband Jules Orr, owners of the local Skookum Surf Company, saw potential in a run-down building on the marina in the little fishing village of Ilwaco. Using sweat equity and Community Sourced Capital, a grassroots funding source for entrepreneurs, they created a modern and comfortable motel with a maritime theme and a second-floor pub with a marina-view. It’s an ideal home base for foodie adventures on the peninsula. Charter fishing is just a short walk from the hotel and a Saturday farmer’s market sets up along the promenade in front. And, the pub is just steps from your room, handy after an evening of brews and albacore fish and chips.
Fishing for Supper
The next morning at 5 a.m., we headed out to sea through a fine morning mist on the Coho King, first stopping at a dock to pick up live bait. The charter fishing boat, skippered by Butch Smith, is part of a family business, run by Butch and son AJ. The men are third and fourth-generation fishermen who have been providing visitors with authentic at-sea experiences for years. While Coho Charters can help you find bottom fish, tuna or sturgeon, I had my heart set on filling my freezer with fresh salmon.
With me on the boat were a multi-generational family, three women, and a couple of laid back older gentlemen. As the boat crossed the Columbia River Bar, with its challenging tides and currents, the waves became stronger and the salt spray kept us fresh and awake. Coffee was served in the boat’s warm galley.
As we motored out to sea, the sun rose, creating a wash of pink and grey on the horizon.
Keeping in radio communication with the company’s two other fishing boats, Captain Butch found just the place for us to fish. Our deck hand, an Oregon college student, baited the hooks and let out our lines. We’d had some basic instruction, and my friend was an experienced fisherwoman, but it was nice to have support so we didn’t miss our opportunity to catch a big one.
As soon as we started trolling, it was “fish on!” Medium-sized Coho Salmon were not all that hard to reel in and our deck hand jumped from bow to stern with the huge net to scooping them up. Soon, everyone had a fish in storage.
We’d been out several hours when heard the whoosh of a whale’s blowhole. Sure enough, we spotted humpbacks, including a female humpback and her calf. Between whale sighting and fish catching, it was hard to take a picture. Things were really exciting on the Coho King!
Shortly after noon, we reached the limit of two fish per person and it was time to head back. Some of us were lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the waves and motor. Those that had felt a little sea sickness started feeling much better.
We motored into harbor and snugged into the slip. We picked up our plastic bagged fish. While the fish was gutted for us at sea (making for great seagull photos), I opted to have my fish fileted, portioned, packed and frozen at nearby Sportsmen’s Cannery. The women at the counter knew exactly what I needed and they’d even could supply a cooler if I needed one. They can also ship.
That evening I enjoyed a pizza with friends from another local venture, Serious Pizza, and watched the sun set over the ocean. I was already planning a salmon dinner and knew the Ilwaco Saturday Market could provide me with what I needed.
After a relaxing sleep under a crisp white comforter at the Salt Hotel, I opted for a fisherwoman’s breakfast at Portside Café–vanilla-cinnamon French toast and bacon. My table was decorated with an area nautical chart of where I’d been the day before and it was fun charting our course while I enjoyed the house-made bread and listened to the fish stories of other guests.
The sun was just beginning to break through the fog as the Ilwaco Saturday Market opened. There were jewelry, lawn ornaments, bird houses, a smoked salmon chowder stand, and more. At De Asis farm stand, I bought delectably fresh fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, and green beans. At the Blue Coast Farms booth, I found some locally foraged chanterelle mushrooms.
My salmon dinner shopping was nearly complete when I smelled grilled sausage wafting from Blue Collar Eats. Anthony de Luz and his wife, Ilwaco locals, told me about creating a thriving business with house-made sausages. They even grind their own spices. Given the line I saw later in the day, Blue Collar Eats is already successful.
There was one more thing I needed to complete my locavore meal shopping… desert. Simpli Edibles had just what I wanted, a cranberry (local of course) and peach pie. It was boxed and ready to go.
Before heading home, I picked up my frozen fish at Sportsmen’s Cannery. They even filled my cooler with ice for the trip home.
As I drove the highway toward home, I felt relaxed and ready to return to the hustle and bustle of the city with my Long Beach Peninsula foodie treasures.– By Elizabeth R. Rose, RFT Contributor
If You Go
Fishing is seasonal. Check with a local charter company for information on availability.
Bring a motion sickness remedy if you are prone to sea sickness.
Be sure and bring waterproof gear and wear layers. It may be warm inland but windy and cold out at sea.
The Ilwaco Saturday Market is also seasonal.