Longtime Alaskan fisherman Ron Hegge said he misses the ocean since moving to the desert, but not the long days and nights when he'd be out at sea for three or four weeks at a time.
Now retired and a Grand Junction resident, Hegge continues to deal with fish - which is fortunate for Grand Valley seafood lovers.
Hegge and his wife Judy Hegge opened Fins Grill, a restaurant dedicated to offering sustainable and healthy wild-caught fish, in March 2011. Early next week, the restaurant will relocate to 420 Main St. from its previous location at 683 Horizon Dr. in the Safeway Shopping Center.
Fins Grill will be open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Hegge bought a boat and began fishing for salmon in Oregon around 1972. Ten years later he went to Alaska, bought additional boats and fished in Alaskan waters until 2006.
Sometimes he and his crew would be out on the ocean for three or four weeks at a time.
"We fished in the gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands, so we saw lots of stormy weather," Hegge said.
When the weather was bad, they'd try and find a place to "harbor up." And if at sea, they'd quit fishing and ride out the storm.
As a commercial fisherman for 30-plus years, Hegge knows the resource and cares about it. That's why his restaurant serves sustainably caught seafood - meaning it's not over-fished, but "harvested and managed in a manner the resource will not be harmed," Hegge said.
The fish Fins serves is also fresh-frozen, making it comparable to fresh caught, Hegge said.
"A lot of fish is frozen and then sent overseas for re-processing where it's thawed out again" and used in various ways, such as steaks, or breaded fish sticks, Hegge said.
"The fish we sell was only frozen once - that's a big difference," Hegge said.
Fins' seafood is from Alaska and wild-caught, except for the shrimp because there are not many shrimp species recognized as sustainable, Hegge said.
Farm-raised fish are kept in small restricted areas with lots of other fish, and are highly susceptible to disease. For that reason, farm-raised fish are constantly given antibiotic-laced pellets, Hegge said.
"They don't eat the natural food that fish in the ocean eat," Hegge said. "And they will often escape and contaminate wild strains."
In Alaska, Hegge was active in fishery groups concerned with protecting fish and sustainability issues. He was also appointed to the Advisory Panel of North Pacific Fisheries Council, a body that overseas all fishing in Alaska's federal waters. Additionally, Hegge represented Alaska as a voting member on the North Pacific Fisheries Council.