PWS salmon catch reaches 280,000 fish

Copper River kings still commanding $42.95 to $59.95 a pound for fillets

Tito Marquez of 10th & M Seafoods checks the supply of Copper River sockeye salmon received at the company’s store in downtown Anchorage. The carefully iced fish, flown in directly from Cordova, was being sold for $23.95 a pound. Photo by Margaret Bauman

Commercial catches of wild king, chum and sockeye salmon in Prince William Sound have reached 280,000 fish, with the Copper River and four other drift fisheries open, and three more coming by mid-June.

The Copper River drift fishery alone had the bulk of the catch through June 6, a total of 253,000 sockeyes, 10,000 kings and 3,000 chums, according to the preliminary harvest figures calculated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Other preliminary totals included 8,000 chum caught in the Coghill District and 2,000 chum from the Prince William Sound general seine fishery.

The preliminary statewide harvest stood at 444,000 fish, including 370,000 red, 60,000 king and 14,000 chum salmon.

Cook Inlet harvesters had a total catch of 16,000 red and 1,000 king salmon, while Kodiak harvesters have delivered 96,000 red and 1,000 Chinook salmon.

ADF&G biologists noted in their weekly update that break-up of the Copper River is behind normal and river water levels are low were low for this date, as of June 2, and that fishing effort and harvest efficiency had been reduced by bad weather in the third Copper River District fishing period.  The third and fourth Copper River fishing periods were shortened and the starts were delayed to miss extreme low tides when Chinook salmon are susceptible to the harvest, a precaution taken to assure the sustainability of the kings.

Copper River red salmon is selling at Costco stores in the Anchorage area at $9.99 a pound for whole fish, was a hot item in late May and early June.
Photo by Margaret Bauman

The Prince William Sound purse seine fishery opened on June 1, targeting the enhanced chum salmon run to the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp.’s Armin F. Koernig Hatchery, some 90 air miles west of Cordova, and Port Chalmers remote release site.

A pink salmon run of 67.16 million pink salmon is forecast for Prince William Sound, of which 58.92 million will be available for common property harvest. This pink salmon forecast includes 21.10 million wild stock fish, 18.75 million Valdez Fisheries Development Association fish, and 27.40 million PWSAC hatchery fish.

The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery, opening by regulation on June 1, has a sockeye salmon run forecast of some 41.47 million fish. ADF&G notes that would make some 27.47 million reds potentially available for commercial harvest. The fishery is managed based on in-season information about abundance.

As the wild salmon fishery kicks in, prices are dropping.

Pike Place Fish market in early June had fresh Copper River king salmon fillets for $42.99 a pound, Copper River kings whole for $27.99 a pound, Copper River sockeye fillets at $29.99 a pound and whole sockeyes for $79.96 per fish.

Costco stores in the Anchorage area were doing a brisk business in whole sockeyes for $9.99 a pound. At the Anchorage retail shops for 10th & M Seafoods fresh Copper River king fillets were $32.95 a pound and fresh Copper River sockeye fillets were $23.95 a pound.

The online retailer FishEx had fresh Copper River red salmon fillets for $39.95 a pound, and Copper River king fillets for $59.95 a pound.

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Margaret Bauman is a veteran Alaska journalist focused on covering fisheries and environmental issues. Bauman has been writing for The Cordova Times since 2010. You can reach her at mbauman@thecordovatimes.com.