Copper River Harvest Remains a Slow One

Prices for the famed Copper River kings and sockeye are holding their own at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, while in Alaska’s Copper River fishery itself, the harvest has been slow.

“The fish are fine,” said veteran harvester John Renner, vice president of Cordova District Fishermen United. “There are just not enough of them. It’s a weak season in my humble opinion. It’s not a biological catastrophe, but a financial one,” he said.

“It is coming in well under the forecast for reds and kings on the Copper River,” noted Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at Cordova. “The run is coming in late, but also looking smaller than forecast. So far it has been pretty scratchy, but we have lots of potential for sockeye and chum for western Prince William Sound” for seiners and the drift fleet, he said.

Only four of the six 12-hour openers scheduled since the harvest began on May 14 have been opened for fishing by ADF&G. To date there have been 1,653 deliveries for a total of 78,177 fish, including 5,751 Chinook, 71,370 sockeyes and 1,056 chum salmon. The first opener on May 14 resulted in 372 deliveries of 1,552 kings, 1,473 reds ad 34 chum, a total of 3,059 fish. Adding to that was the May 18 opener, with a catch of 6,622 salmon, the May 25 opener, with 35,839 salmon and the June 1 opener, with 32,657 salmon delivered to processors.

Seafood shops that are hawking Copper River salmon meanwhile are asking premium prices.

At the online seafood shop FishEx in Anchorage premium portions of fresh Copper River king salmon are $78.95 a pound, premium portions of fresh Copper River sockeyes are $44.95 a pound, and a 20-pound case of Copper River king fillets is selling for $1,250.

At Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle the prices for fresh Copper River salmon are holding at $74.98 a pound for king fillets and $49.99 a pound f

or sockeye fillets. Whole fresh Copper River kings are still commanding $659.99 apiece and whole fresh Copper River reds are $174.99.
As of yesterday, June 2, the market was sold out of Copper River king fillets and whole fish, but still had whole Copper River reds and sockeye fillets in stock.

Statewide, as the wild salmon harvest season gets off and running, preliminary harvest figures compiled by ADF&G show an overall harvest of 115,000 fish, including 91,000 reds, 23,000 kings and 1,000 chums in Southeast and the Central regions of Alaska.