Next Copper River Commercial Fishery Opener Planned for May 26

Prince William Sound fishing districts
Prince William Sound fishing districts, including Copper River. Image via State of Alaska.

In the wake of a moderate first opener and weak second opener of the Copper River commercial salmon fishery, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said ‘no’ to a third 12-hour fishing period, but that the next opener is anticipated for tomorrow Thursday, May 26.

ADF&G biologists stationed in Cordova, Alaska, did allow subsistence harvesters a 12-hour fishing period on Monday, May 23, within the Copper River District, while closing waters within the Chinook salmon expanded inside closure area for those harvesters for that period.

The biologists issued their decision after the second opener on Thursday, May 19, resulted 416 deliveries of a total of 14,750 fish, including 2,690 kings and 11,705 sockeye salmon. The first opener on May 16 had harvesters making 401 deliveries of 15,609 fish, including 2,830 kings and 12,737 sockeyes. The official total commercial catch to date is 30,359 fish.

ADF&G fisheries biologist Jeremy Botz noted that the initial run produced a stronger king harvest and weaker sockeye harvest than anticipated.

ADF&G and harvesters alike have noted that waters on the fishing grounds are still cold and there is a lot of ice on the rivers. Veteran fisherman John Renner, vice president of Cordova District Fishermen United, said it would be better to cancel the second opener, due to cold water and ice issues, in order to have a more robust third opener.

Prices for the early run Copper River salmon remain high, and fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle say the cost did not slow the demand, including an initial nearly $900 for a whole fresh Copper River king.

Pike Place subsequently dropped the price of those whole kings from the Coper River to $799.99 apiece, and fresh whole sockeye salmon weighing about three pounds, were available for $174.99 apiece. Pike Place Fish Market also had fillets of fresh Copper River kings for $89.99 a pound, and fillets of fresh Copper River sockeyes for $69.98 a pound.

Other retail shops were waiting for prices to drop before promoting Copper River salmon online, but FishEx, an online seafood firm in Anchorage, was posting $114.95 a pound for fresh Copper River king fillets and $79.95 a pound for fresh Copper River sockeye fillets.