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Business Spotlight: The Harbor Fish Co. is Gig Harbor’s next-gen fishing family

Posted on December 18th, 2023 By:

Wild, packed with nutrients, and heart-healthy. For Gig Harbor residents, a local fishing family provides direct delivery of fresh wild Alaskan-caught salmon to your doorstep.

Alex James and Zack Worrell launched their company, The Harbor Fish Co., in 2022 to connect Gig Harbor with high-quality wild-caught Alaskan salmon, Dungeness crab, and striped shrimp harvested from the pristine and icy waters of southeast Alaska. The company is anchored in Gig Harbor and Juneau, Alaska.

“We started it because we wanted to get a good product to our community. Food is such a great way to bring people together,” explains Alex. Inspired by their connection to the sea, she believes their fishing business can help “nourish the community” with “wild, sustainable, and nutritious food.” She also encourages consumers to learn more about their food.

Alex James and Zack Worrell on the dock of their home on the Gig Harbor waterfront. Photo by Julie Warrick Ammann

Farmed vs. wild

Alex says consumers should consider a few things when choosing fish: “Is it wild vs farm salmon? What impacts does farm salmon have on the ecosystem?”

A conservation easement specialist at Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS), Alex holds a master’s degree in environmental studies and education, along with a degree in ecology and organismal biology.

Fishing in Alaska with a focus on sustainability, wild sourcing, conservation, and health, she explains, is an intentional choice. Every salmon, Alex says, “is hand-selected by Zack” for its size, quality, and health.

The salmon is also marked with a number designated by the state of Alaska on the package so customers can trace their fish. Alex emphasizes that wild seafood is among “Alaska’s most precious and important natural resources.” Its importance is such that the state has incorporated sustainability into its laws.

To a fisherman such as Zack, it’s about knowing the region, seasonality and how the fish is caught. The lifelong Gig Harbor resident has spent more than a decade commercial fishing for Alaska salmon from the immaculate waters of Lynn Canal and the Taku Inlet off the coast of Juneau.

“I’ve been catching fish one way or another since I was 5,” smiles Zack, who admits he often chose fishing in the bays and inlets of the South Puget Sound over attending classes at Peninsula High School.

Zack Worrell with a fish caught in the waters off southeast Alaska.

Hooked on fishing

While studying construction engineering management at Central Washington University, Zack spent a summer working on a tender boat in Alaska. Tenders act like a middleman between fishing boats and fish processors. They meet the fishing boats at sea, buy and load fish, deliver supplies, and transport the purchase back to fish processing plants.

Today, Zack operates and seasonally lives on a 40-foot Beck boat named Minter Bay, harvesting salmon from the wild runs of southeast Alaska. It’s a 7-day-a-week job, May through mid-August or September. He’s assisted by a deck hand at times. To kick off 2023, deckhand Kevin Murray, now in dental school, honored the fishing season with a boatside bagpipe serenade.


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Once within the season, his fiancé usually joins him for a brief period. “I’ve crabbed with Zack and salmon fished with Zack. I love it. It’s hard work. It’s a wild lifestyle,” says Alex, who laughs as she refers to herself as the “best deck hand he’s ever had.”

The weather typically fluctuates between the low 40s and the 80s. Zack chuckles, mentioning, “It’s often in the 50s with sideways rain.”

Zack uses a drift gillnet to fish. From the fishing vessel, a barrier of netting is suspended in the water to capture fish. Regulations and considerations such as the fishing zone and the species being targeted dictate the dimensions — mesh size, length, and height — of commercial gillnets, to help avoid catching juvenile fish.

“Zack knows the waters of Southeast Alaska very well and can often tell what species is swimming under the surface by watching how the water moves,” describes Alex on a company Instagram post.

Fish caught on one of Zack Worrell’s trips in southeast Alaska.

The best comes home

Zack explains that you have to “get the fish out of the net fast,” meticulously inspecting everything that’s being brought in. Because fishing occurs close to shore, maintaining self-awareness is key. The skipper must avoid entanglements with rocks, pay attention to other boats, and be mindful of changing weather fronts.

A good day’s catch for Zack can add up to 10,000 pounds of fish. Zack estimates that he sells 95% of his catch to tenders, but he saves the “best of the best” for The Harbor Fish Co.

Each handpicked fish is bled on deck and stored immediately in fish holds containing a mixture of ice and seawater circulating and refrigerated at 34 degrees. It is less than 24 hours before the processor flash freezes the fish. This ensures that its nutritious value, firm texture, and superior taste are maintained. No hormones, artificial coloring, antibiotics, or other unnatural chemicals are added in their fish.

From Juneau, the vacuum-sealed, frozen fish packages are flown to Bellingham, where they are then placed in a cold storage facility. Zack and Alex then transport the fish to their company headquarters in Gig Harbor for delivery to local homes, area farmers markets, regional farms, and pickup locations.


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Community partnerships

The Harbor Fish Co. anchors itself in the community by embracing community partnerships. B’s Bagels‘ Smoked Salmon cream cheese is made with The Harbor Fish Co.’s Alderwood Smoked Coho Salmon. The Deckhand Delight’s Salmon Rub is a collaboration with For the Love of Spice. Seasonal dishes featuring wild Alaskan coho salmon are served at Greenhouse Restaurant in Uptown Gig Harbor. An assortment of salmon, along with their signature pâté and salmon rub, are sold at Island View Market.

They’ve also teamed up with Shelton’s Hungry Hollow Farm and Eat Black Garlic to offer special Wild Holiday Dinner Box Sets that include a curated selection of locally farm-raised chicken and wild-caught salmon, along with salmon rubs, smoked salmon, pâté, and other options. All smoked salmon products are smoked in Oak Harbor at Seabolt’s Smokehouse, a designated and FDA-approved facility.

As the business grows, their product offerings do, too. At the request of their customers, The Harbor Fish Co. is now selling packages of Wild Sidestripe shrimp. These freshly harvested shrimp come with the edible shell on and contain roe (fish eggs) that are tasty to eat and highly nutritious. They are also offering salmon burger meat that contains 100% salmon with no flavor or ingredient additives. “One of our goals is to use as much of the whole salmon as possible,” explains Alex. Their next product under consideration: pet treats.

As The Harbor Fish Co. grows, James and Worrell are expanding its offerings. Photo by Julie Warrick Ammann

Salmon and Gig Harbor

Alex and Zack respect the profound connection fishing families maintain with salmon, the marine surroundings and their coastal communities. To support salmon habitat for future generations, Harbor Fishing donates a percentage of all sales to Wild Salmon Center, a nonprofit working to protect wild salmon rivers across the North Pacific.

They also donate to the environmental education nonprofit Harbor Wildwatch. The Harbor Fishing Co. believes that a purchase of wild-caught fish from a local fishing family plays a hand in preserving biodiversity and supporting coastal communities whose existence relies heavily on these resources.

Want to meet the local fisherman who caught your fish, or find out more about their products? The Harbor Fish Co made an appearance at The Beer Vault’s recent Holiday Night Market, featuring local makers. The response was overwhelmingly positive. You can also find them at the Proctor Farmer’s Market in Tacoma.

Harbor Fish Co. products for sale at The Beer Vault’s Holiday Night Market. Photo by Julie Warrick Ammann

The Harbor Fish Co.


Email: [email protected]

Delivery: Free local delivery within Gig Harbor from 4 to 6 p.m. every Monday and Thursday

Pickup sites: West Coast Brewery, Gig Harbor; Yoked Farmhouse Brewery, Port Orchard; Hungry Hollow Farm, Shelton; Proctor Farmer’s Market, Tacoma.

Retail locations: B’s Bagels & Butters, Gig Harbor; Island View Market, Gig Harbor, Green.House Restaurant, Gig Harbor; Hungry Hollow Farm, Shelton; La Pasta, Seattle.



Alex James and Zack Worrell with a crewmember, 4-year-old Golden Retriever Odie Spumoni. Odie is in charge of entertainment and quality control for The Harbor Fish Co. Photo by Julie Warrick Ammann