Copper River Kicks In; Alaska’s Wild Salmon Harvest Swells

The famed Copper River district salmon fishery is running
well ahead of forecast and appears likely now to have a robust regular
commercial fishing schedule, with openers twice weekly averaging 24 to 36
hours, state biologists say.

“We were way ahead of the forecast (for sockeyes) for the
first three openers,” said Jeremy Botz, the state Department of Fish and Game’s
gillnet area management biologist at Cordova.

The projected harvest for the first three 12-hour openers
was 410,000 sockeye and 8,000 Chinook salmon. The preliminary estimate on the
actual harvest is 586,000 reds and 5,400 kings, plus some 7,000 chums. Except
for the first period, weather conditions have been favorable for the fleet and
the fourth opener on June 10 was under sunny skies with temperatures near 60

Statewide, as of June 12, the preliminary cumulative
statistics show a harvest of 1,922,000 salmon of all species, including some
1,072,000 reds, 802,000 chum, 45,000 kings, and fewer than 1,000 silver and
3,000 pink salmon respectively.

Beginning this season, the Alaska Department of Fish and
Game is updating the harvest estimates nightly, and posting them online at:

In Seattle’s famed Pike Place Fish Market, whole fresh
Copper River king salmon are selling for $29.99 a pound and fresh Copper River
king fillets for $43.99 a pound. Whole fresh Copper River sockeyes are $64.95
per fish and fresh Copper River sockeye fillets are $21.99 a pound. In
Anchorage, FishEx is offering fresh Copper River sockeye fillets for $25.95 a
pound and fresh Copper River king fillets for $38.95 a pound.

As usual with the Copper River fish, it was a case of first
come, first serve, and they were going fast, keeping fishmongers very busy.

Prices have come down a bit with some, but not all, online
retailers since the celebrated annual opener of the Copper River fishery. On
May 29, 10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage was retailing whole kings for $26.95 a
pound and king fillets for $32.95 a pound, and sockeyes were priced at $7.95 a
pound for whole fish and $11.95 a pound for fillets. Pike Place Fish Market in
Seattle meanwhile was offering whole Copper River kings for $35.99 a pound,
king fillets for $35.99 a pound, whole Copper River sockeyes at $94.95 each and
fillets for $28.99 a pound.