Copper River Sixth Opener Comes in Strong

Preliminary harvest figures for the sixth opener on Alaska’s Copper River salmon fishery were still being calculated this morning, while fishermen were calling the catch “a very welcome relief for the fleet”.

“It appears to be a larger run than predicted,” said gillnet harvester John Renner of Cordova, Alaska, who estimated the weight of some sockeyes at 10 pounds. “The fish are also large and healthy. They are spread out across the flats offshore and onshore,” he said.

According to Renner, sockeyes were filling most nets, while the Chinook salmon run appeared moderate.

While he finally saved a sockeye to taste, Renner hasn’t had a bite of a king yet. “The kings are just worth too much money,” said the veteran harvester who toughed it out last year when the commercial fishery on the Copper River ended after three periods. “With the tight season last year, every fish is appreciated,” he said. “We needed a little shot in the arm, and this is an opportunity to pay off some bills.”

The weather was cooperating too. Up until this last opener the weather had been quite crappy. “Last period it was very benign. Very nice,” he commented.

While retail prices in Anchorage shops have remained relatively steady for Copper River salmon – while dropping by several dollars a pound at Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market—processors have lowered their prices to harvesters. Renner said sixth opener prices were $3 a pound for reds and $7 a pound for kings, down considerably from first opener prices on May 16 of $14 a pound for sockeyes and $18 a pound for kings.

Anchorage area retail prices for Copper River sockeye fillets as of June 4 ranged from $13.99 a pound at Costco stores, down a dollar from the previous week, to $41.99 a pound at New Sagaya’s fish counter. Signs at Fred Meyer supermarkets in Anchorage had those sockeye fillets at $16.99 a pound, a drop from the week’s regular price of $39.99 a pound.