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.

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

Alberni teen earns black belt in taekwondo

Lachlan Duncan of Port Alberni earned his black belt at Dragon Martial Arts

ARTS AROUND: See magic on the stage at the Capitol Theatre

Murray Hatfield and Teresa don’t just do magic—they are magic

ELECTION 2018: Ron Corbeil runs for Port Alberni city council

Corbeil wants to focus on the economy, livability and affordability

San Group adds third shift to its Port Alberni mill

The new shift will mean 40 to 50 more jobs

BCHL: Mackenzie Wight returns to Bulldogs lineup

Forward returns following a Memorial Cup run with WHL’s Swift Current Broncos

VIDEO: 41 years later, Saanich author publishes story he wrote at 6 years old

Troy Wilson originally created Captain Otter while Port Alberni Grade 1 student

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Only 40% of B.C. car dealerships have electric cars available: report

Researchers found buyers frustrated at the lack of options

VIDEO: Millionaire Lottery returns to give back and win big

Since 1996, Millionaire Lottery has raised $52 million for the VGH+UBC Hospital Foundation

Test case challenges a politician’s right to block people from Twitter account

3 people say Watson infringed their constitutional right to freedom of expression by blocking them

‘A little odd’ B.C.’s biggest city celebrates cannabis without a legal store

On the streets of downtown Vancouver, notably the Wild West of illegal marijuana, not a single legal store opened Wednesday, making for a rather anticlimatic kick-off

Most Read