wow, you guys are great...so many ideas and thanks to all for taking the time to try to help...
i am defrosting another few pieces and will give it another try, using your input.
here's some more stuff i realized that might help you diagnose what i did wrong:
fish is a bit salty tasting. we used 4:1 ratio of dark br sugar to kosher salt with almost a whole head of minced garlic
fish was kinda tough feeling after brining. we left it out for the pellicle to form, but it never got sticky-just tough outer skin
put smoked fish in refrigerator overnight until i had a chance to vac-seal it and there was ALOT of oil (or brine?) in the bottom of the dish when i checked it the next morning...
the fish tastes good (maybe a bit smokier than i'd like-we used alder but will alternate with apple or cherry next time) but it's more like a jerky than i wanted...
in answer to a question above, the fish we had professionally processed in alaska (at $3.95/lb) was lightly smoked and moist. they smoked it with the skin on and when i opened the vac packs, the skin was moist also, yet the meat came away from the skin kinda easy. my smoked fish skin can be used for shoe leather! (anyone need a new pair of loafers?)
now, in hindsight i wonder if we should've had more fish professionally smoked??? hope we didn't make a mistake!
i'll try again and let everyone know the outcome