Alaska’s Copper River Commercial Fishery Opens

(Left) Celebrating the arrival of the first Copper River Chinook salmon in Anchorage are, from left: Jim Kostka, marketing director of Copper River Seafoods; Clarissa Habeger, director of the American Cancer Society’s Alaska office; and Jared Moser, general manager of Alaska Data Solutions. Photo courtesy of Copper River Seafoods. (Right) Executive chef Latonia Ireland of Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Anchorage with her Drunken Salmon Taco, which placed first among five competing chefs at an Anchorage fundraising for the Alaska Cancer Society in May hosted by Copper River Seafoods. Ingredients included fresh Copper River sockeye salmon donated by Copper River Seafoods, pineapple, onion, tomato, cilantro, lime, salt, pepper, tortillas and Jack Daniel’s soy sauce. Photo by Margaret Bauman.

There was still plenty of ice, and waters were running low in rivers where fish were headed to spawn as commercial harvesters in the Copper River commercial fishery in Alaska headed out on May 16, returning home with a catch some 12,800 king and 12,800 sockeye salmon.

“We had 384 deliveries,” said Jerry Botz, gillnet area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Cordova, Alaska.

The average Chinook weighed in at 13 pounds and the average sockeye at 5.3 pounds, he said.

By May 17, some 30,000 pounds of the overall catch had been airlifted to Seattle for a red carpet ceremony later that day, and another 4,000 pounds to Anchorage, where Copper River Seafoods was holding a smaller ceremony at the Alaska Airlines cargo terminal.

Jim Kostka, marketing director for Copper River Seafoods, hailed the event as “a celebration welcoming of spring.”

A portion of Copper River Seafoods’ sockeye salmon harvest was set aside for an American Cancer Society fundraiser later in the week, in which six chefs would compete in the preparation of appetizers to be served to dozens of guests at the event.

Prices for the first run Copper River salmon soared so high in advice of the opener that some retail shops were waiting to learn the actual price they would have to pay, while at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, fishmongers said they were taking orders in advance for whole Copper River kings at $899.

Pike Place also had fillets of Copper River kings for about $130 a pound, whole Copper River sockeyes for $200, and Copper River sockeye fillets for $75 a pound.