Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Copper River Salmon Make their Seasonal Debut

Copper River sockeye and Chinook salmon are back in seafood shops and upscale restaurants from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle, Wash., and beyond. The 12-hour season opener on May 16 brought in an estimated 20,534 red and 2,309 king salmon, some of which were being served up for dinner in Anchorage even before the first period closed that evening.

Skip Winfree of 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage arranged for a helicopter to pluck a brailer of wild salmon from a fishing vessel in the Copper River several hours into the opener, and deliver the fish to Cordova’s airport to be flown into Anchorage, where it was rushed to four upscale restaurants.

“We were tired of Seattle getting all the first fish,” said Winfree, who partnered for a third year in a row with 60° North Seafoods to get fresh wild salmon to Anchorage on the day of the first opener. Some first night diners paid approximately $65 a plate for the Copper River sockeye entrée. Six days later fresh Copper River sockeye entrées were being offered at $38.95 and fresh Copper River king fillets for $48.95 at another popular restaurant.

Meanwhile in Seattle, Alaska Air Cargo delivered some 18,000 pounds of fresh Copper River salmon on the morning of May 17 on board the Alaska Airlines Salmon-Thirty-Salmon, a jet painted to look like a gigantic king salmon. Later in the day a second jet brought another 50,000 pounds of fresh kings and sockeyes for distribution to grocers and restaurants nationwide.

Pike Place Fish Market offered whole Copper River kings for $44.99 a pound and fillets for $59.99 a pound, as well as whole Copper River sockeyes for $199.95 per fish.

The second opener, on Monday, May 20, brought the harvest to a total of 73,766 sockeyes weighing in at 416,259 pounds, 4,064 kings for a total of 73,559 pounds, and 1,765 chum salmon totaling 11,463 pounds. Kings came in at an average of 18.7 pounds for the first period and 17.4 pounds on the second round, while sockeyes averaged 5.5 pounds and 5.7 pounds respectively for those same periods, and chums were at 6.5 pounds on average, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists.

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