Sockeye harvest still below forecast

It wasn’t for lack of trying that all the sockeyes and kings delivered to processors in Cordova during the third Copper River salmon opener once again failed to come close to the forecast.

It just wasn’t happening.

“We were expecting close to 100,000 (sockeyes) just for the third period, based on the forecast,” said Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist in Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, speculating that maybe temperatures played a role.

“It’s been cool, so the run is a little later than anticipated,” he said. “At this point, it (the entire run) is starting to look smaller than anticipated.

Preliminary harvest data compiled by ADF&G included 493 deliveries to processors, with 3,140 Chinook salmon weighing an average of 15.2 pounds, 19,979 sockeyes weighing an average of 5.2 pounds, and 2,657 chum salmon averaging 7.2 pounds.

The three openers to date through May 28 included 1,166 deliveries, 7,330 kings, 25,745 sockeyes, 3,029 chum and 14 silver salmon.

While the harvest remained low, prices remained high, with retail markets again reminding shoppers that supplies were limited. While seafood restaurants were posting gourmet Copper River salmon dishes at market price, aficionados of those first of the season salmon were paying to satiate their cravings.

At Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, the prices for fresh Copper River fish were $39.99 a pound for whole Chinooks, $54.99 for Chinook fillets, $159.96 for a single whole sockeye, and $49.99 a pound for sockeye fillets.

10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage had fresh Copper River king fillets for $58.95 a pound and Copper River red fillets at $45.95 a pound.

Carrs Safeway in Anchorage had Copper River king fillets for at $45.99 a pound and Copper River sockeye fillets for $32.95 a pound, while Fred Meyer stories had only Copper River king fillets, at $49.99 a pound.

Supplies and prices on these fish fluctuate on a daily basis annually early on in this celebrated fishery.

Preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvest numbers are posted daily at

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyfisherysalmon.bluesheet

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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.