First Copper River Commercial Salmon Opener Harvest Yields Nearly 43,000 Sockeyes

First Copper River Commercial Salmon Opener Harvest Yields Nearly 43,000 Sockeyes
A sockeye salmon. File photo.

Commercial harvesters in the first Copper River salmon opener delivered nearly 43,000 sockeye salmon, 1,108 Chinook, 247 chum and two coho salmon to processors. The estimated harvest was compiled from 376 deliveries by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Cordova office.

The second 12-hour opener of the season was underway May 20 under partly cloudy skies, with temperatures in the low 50s.

ADF&G biologist Jeremy Botz in Cordova said the sockeye salmon harvest in that first fishing period exceeded expectations. Botz noted that there’s still a lot of ice in the river system, that the water levels are low for the date, and that there has been only limited sonar deployment on the north bank so far, with no fish observed.

Botz estimated between 325 and 350 drift gillnetter permit holders were fishing in the Copper River District, and anticipated announcing the first fishing periods in western Prince William Sound by the end of the week.

Once water levels come up to lift offshore ice around the sonar sites and break up ice in Miles Lake, then sonar deployment will be more consistent, he said.

Sockeyes are averaging between 5.5 and 6 pounds per fish and kings around 14 pounds each. The sockeye size is about the same as the 10-year average and king salmon are below the 10-year average, he said.

Copper River Seafoods CEO Scott Blake said processors were paying $7 a pound for sockeyes and $16 a pound for kings for the first opener.

Retail prices varied from $59.95 a pound for fillets of fresh Copper River sockeyes at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle and FishEx, an online Anchorage merchant, to $23.99 a pound at Costco stores in Anchorage, where they were going fast. Until the first wild salmon of the season arrived, Costco was selling refreshed frozen fillets of Alaska wild sockeyes for $9.99 a pound.


Boat Lyfe