Fishmonger Jaison Scott plucks a 30-pound Wild King Salmon—hand-selected by a couple visiting from Colorado—from its shimmering bed of crushed ice. The whole fish is at least the size of Jaison’s forearm from elbow to fingertips. With the fish’s head in his left hand and the tail in his right hand, he yells, “Wild King, going to Colorado!” He slings it over the ice bins and display cases filled with fish, oysters, crabs, and scallops and into the hands of fellow fishmonger Ryan Reese, who’s standing in the prep area 15 feet away.
“Wild King, going to Colorado,” Ryan yells back, joined in unison by the five other fishmongers working behind the counter. Ryan and the others expertly process the salmon and pack it up for the flight. The Colorado couple is heading home today and looking forward to a fresh king salmon dinner tomorrow night—the perfect end to their vacation in Seattle, Washington.
Fish throwing and the boisterous call-and-response banter is an all-day occurrence at Pike Place Fish Market, a fixture of Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market since 1930. In fact, it’s made them world famous. The fish market’s hardworking fishmongers interact with thousands of tourists and local visitors each day, selling seafood, cutting fish, and packaging the goods for shipping. It’s hard work, but it’s obvious they’re having fun. While the performative theatrics draw a crowd, it’s the commitment to sourcing the highest quality seafood, providing the best customer service, and a shared respect for the craft that’s kept Pike Place Fish Market as one of the most sought-after purveyors of premium, responsibly-sourced seafood in the world.
This vision of excellence was cemented in place by longtime owner John Yokoyama, a mentor and father figure to many of the fishmongers that have worked at the fish market over the years. Not only did John source the freshest, best quality fish, but he was insistent that the fish displays should be kept beautiful and immaculate and that every cut was expertly precise. He wasn’t just selling fish; he was offering a unique customer experience that provided a window into the energetic and passionate world of fishmongers.
In 2018, John retired and sold the business to four of his fishmongers: Jaison Scott, Ryan Reese, Sam Samson, and Anders Miller. He was confident they would continue the fish market’s legacy of quality, community, hard work, and fish-flying good times.
“As a kid, I thought it would be cool to own this place one day,” Jaison says. His mother worked for John, and Jaison literally grew up in Pike Place. As an impressionable 10-year-old, Jaison started working in the market, running errands and helping out where he could. He even fondly recalls wearing his Pike Place Fish Market shirt to school to impress his friends.
“After all these years, it just felt right. If I’m going to work my ass off, I might as well work here, where people respect me, and it just happens it’s at a famous fish market. It’s fun.”
Today, Jaison and the infamous Pike Place Fish Market team are slinging fish like a well-oiled machine, thanks to each fishmonger’s respect for their craft, their workplace, and each other. Teamwork, collaboration, and cohesion are required to meet the fast-paced demand of the market’s national and international clientele, a daily stream of inquisitive visitors looking to be a part of the theatrics and fill their seafood fancy.
“We’re a bunch of hardworking fishmongers that care about people and what we sell,” Jaison says. “We run this place like everyone is in charge, and everyone has a say. When we operate like this, everyone is a leader and we hold each other up and grow together. I work with a group of people that really care, and that’s why I’m here.”
With sharp knives always at the ready, Jaison, Sam, Anders, Ryan, and their wild crew of salty fishmongers honor the history and heritage of their trade with every precise cut they make and every fish sold. From beautiful fillets of halibut and salmon to uniform steaks of swordfish and tuna, the proof is in the pride of workmanship—a hands-on, no-nonsense dedication to the craft. Throwing fish while you work? That’s just gravy.
Learn more about the awesome crew at Pike Place Fish Market on their official website.