Monday, March 16, 2015

Halibut Earbones ~ Otoliths ~ Harvesting for jewelry

 
Last year I started harvesting the ivory earbones from our halibut hauls.  They are beautiful, delicate pieces for jewelry!  (It is like finding treasure looking for these!)
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I had been reading up on how to locate them for awhile.  Then, when I was ready to try though, there were tons of people waiting at the cleaning station. :/  So.. I convinced Tyler to put all ten heads in a separate bag so I could work on finding them at home.  It took me a bit to locate the first one, but once you get the idea of where they are, it is easy.  (Sneaking back down to the dock to try to casually dump my ten heads at the end of all of this was a whole separate adventure). ;)
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A tip:  I did learn yesterday down at the cleaning station with these two, that it is much easier with just the head.  Moving the whole fish carcass around was a little bit trickier!
 
Anyways, if you want to harvest them, hopefully these pictures will be more helpful than just written instructions.  Start by removing the parts of the fish you are going to eat of course!)  Then you begin by making a cut above the top eye.  (You might end up making a couple cuts following this first one, as you figure out where you are in the fish.)  What you are trying to cut is the top layer of the brain cavity (shown below).  Once you have the brain cavity opened up there will be a hole.  When you lift the fish upright and look inside that hole, you will see two chambers. 
With the fish still upright, I very carefully poke my knife in one side to get things moving around.  (Slow movements are best to prevent breaking the ivory).  Once I see the otolith start to float around, I turn the fish back on its side and work the otolith out with the knife.  (Like lifting up a pizza slice). Repeat in the other cavity for the second otolith. 
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Once you get them cleaned up they are beautiful! This one is from an 87 lb halibut Tyler caught last summer. (I kept this one and wear it all the time!)
 
 Here are some pieces I sold at 2014 Blueberry Festival in Ketchikan. 
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*If you do bring the heads home with you, be sure to be ready to dump them back in the ocean as soon as you are done with them! Nothing smells worse than old halibut! :)



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