Alberni man jammin with derby salmon

Alberni resident Art Wynans, 80, has been barbecuing fish at the Port Alberni Salmon Festival for more than four decades.

Salmon derby barbecue pit stalwart Art Wynans has been cooking that delicious fish you eat for the last 40 years and he plans on several more.

Salmon derby barbecue pit stalwart Art Wynans has been cooking that delicious fish you eat for the last 40 years and he plans on several more.

Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever. Give a man fish and he’ll barbecue them to perfection for 40 years.

Port Alberni resident Art Wynans, 80, has been barbecuing fish at the Port Alberni Salmon Festival for more than four decades.

“I’ve been at it since day one and I’ve loved it ever since,” the married father of five said.

The only year Wynans was not able to barbecue fish was in 2009, when he spent a month in an induced coma after being severely injured in a cycling accident. It took him the better part of a year to recover.

Wynans came to Port Alberni in 1955 after emigrating from Holland, where fish were plentiful: just not the kind you catch in the salmon festival.

“We had herring there – salted herring, pickled herring, fresh herring,” Wynans said.

Wynans is sturdily built with sinewy arms denoting a life of hard work.

He handles cooking the fish on a rack over the fire with ease, his technique smoother than that of the younger man standing next to him.

Wynans was a member of the Kiwanis Club when the local Tyee Club asked them to help with the first salmon festival fish barbecue and Bavarian gardens.

Wynans had never barbecued a fish before, “but you have to start somewhere,” he said.

Barbecuing fish has changed. A large barbecue is now used instead of an open pit with bricks.

The number of fish barbecued in a weekend has also changed over the years.

The group sold five fish and a dozen beers that first weekend 40 years ago. Today, they regularly cook more than 5,000 pounds of fish in a weekend. “That’s a lot of fish and a lot of work,” Wynans said.

The barbecue recipe is roughly the same as it was 40 years ago and remains a sworn secret. “We decided back then that we needed a constant recipe and we still use it today,” Wynans said.

While the barbecued salmon recipe is a secret, cooking it is not. “Use alder wood for a nice burn and good smoke, keep the fish moist, and float it over the fire when you cook it,” he said.

The best advice Wynans has for budding barbecuers is simply to get it right the first time around. “Whatever you cook you have to eat so you better do it right,” he said.

Wynans has never entered the salmon derby and doesn’t think about it. “I’m too busy cooking the fish,” he said.

One memory that stands out distinctly from salmon festivals past involves the beer gardens. “They used to serve beer in glasses back then and I remember when whole tables of guys would pound the tables with their glasses for more beer,” he said.

The best part of salmon fest is knowing that it will carry on. “My family—my sons and grandchildren—have stood behind me and helped make this happen,” Wynans said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
B.C. teen who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Dry Creek Park will be closed all week as city parks crews remove hazardous trees and prepare the site for a new disc golf course. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni’s second disc golf course on the way at Dry Creek Park

Dry Creek Park will be closed for development for a week beginning June 21

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

Most Read