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

City of Port Alberni cancels tourist train operations for 2019

Steam train to McLean Mill is out of commission for repairs; city wants to re-examine rail costs

BUSINESS BEAT: New board room at Steampunk Café has nautical flair

Teresa Bird writes about business happenings once a month in the Alberni Valley News

ARTS AROUND: Artists invited to exhibit work at Port Alberni gallery

The Rollin Art Centre is now accepting applications for the 2020 calendar year

Port Alberni millwright brings Beatles’ iconic yellow submarine to life for ice show

Beatlemania is set to take the ice on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Alberni Valley Multiplex

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

VIDEO: Massive elk herd runs across Washington State highway

Elk have been making an appearance in the Pacific Northwest

Winter storm freezes U.S., halts air travel

Storm dumps snow or heavy rain, snarls travel in much of U.S.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Skier sued me to exploit my fame, wealth

The incident happened in Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Missing Surrey snowshoer caught in avalanche found dead on Vancouver mountain

North Shore Rescue resumed its search today after efforts were temporarily halted Tuesday due to snowstorm

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Experts urge caution after 10 human-triggered avalanches across B.C.

One man is still stuck after avalanche on south coast

‘It consumed my life’: Inside the world of gaming addiction

World Health Organization classifies gaming disorder as a mental health condition

Most Read