Some 500 commercial fishing permit holders have converged on Alaska’s famed Copper River wild salmon fishery, where the total catch from the first two 12-hour openers has reached 1,673 Chinook, 90,774 sockeye, 4,756 chum and 2 humpies.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had forecast those first two harvests would yield some 93,000 reds and 3,700 kings. The next opener is on May 22.
Jeremy Botz of ADF&G’s office in Cordova, on Prince William Sound, said both sockeye and king salmon are about the same size as last year, with the reds averaging just a little over six pounds and kings at about 19.5 pounds.
The weather, said Botz, is definitely warmer than a year ago this time, with no ice on the Copper River, and the salmon are scattered, although they were a little more concentrated for the second than first period. Why the harvest is below anticipated, nobody knows for sure, he said.
Harvest volume aside, the fanfare over the celebrated harvest had its usual gusto on May 16, with red carpets rolled out in Seattle and Anchorage as Alaska Airlines landed jets carrying first run sockeyes and kings from Copper River Seafoods, Trident Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods.
The red carpet festivities at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle, an event organized by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, featured a cooking contest between three of Seattle’s finest seafood chefs.
In Anchorage, chefs from several restaurants disembarked from the Alaska Airlines jet carrying sockeye and king salmon. Then Copper River Seafoods had a parade of deliveries from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to the restaurants, where chefs planned to put the fresh catch on the menu that night.
First run whole sockeye salmon were priced at $19.95 a pound at 10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage, but the price dropped to $17.95 a pound with arrival of fish from the second opener. Prices per pound on whole kings held at $25.95 a pound.
The popular seafood shop also had sockeye filets for $22.95 a pound and king fillets were $35.95 a pound.
Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle was offering whole fresh Copper River sockeyes for $119.95 a fish and Copper River sockeye fillets for $32.99 a pound, plus fresh Copper River king salmon fillets for $57.99 a pound. Other fresh whole wild king salmon were priced at $17.99 a pound and $27.99 a pound for fillets.