Copper River opener set for May 16

Seafood purveyors encouraging customers to pre-order

Trident's Vic Scheibert, center, holds a 31-pound Copper River king salmon while members of the media take photographs on the tarmac at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday, May 18, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

With less than a week until the Copper River salmon fishery opens, on May 16, the excitement as already spread far beyond Prince William Sound.

Plans are already in the works at 60° North Seafoods in Cordova to deliver some of the opener catch into Anchorage within hours after the fishery opens.

While the focus of fresh wild Alaska seafood is currently on fresh Pacific Halibut, which had its season opener on March 15, those sockeyes and Chinooks are swimming north, covering some 300 miles from the ocean to reach the icy unspoiled waters of their spawning grounds.

Copper River Seafoods, the local company whose marketing efforts have brought worldwide fame to the succulent red and kings, is posting deals on Copper River kings for those who pre-order online at

Cordova’s 60° North Seafoods is taking pre-season orders too, plus planning to deliver some first run Copper River to 10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage.

Last year some of that first run Copper River salmon was being served in Anchorage restaurants two hours before the opener closed, said Rob Winfree of 10th and M.


Winfree said Alaskans have been shortchanged by having all those season opener salmon flown directly to Seattle two days before Alaskans can get it.

So 10th & M worked with 60° North Seafoods to arrange for a helicopter to lift the fish directly off of fishing vessels on the grounds and transport to a jet at Cordova’s airport, then directly from the airport in Anchorage to 10th & M and on to restaurants.

“It is small amounts” Winfree said. “It’s token, but it means a lot.”

Alerts are also up at the famed Pike Place Fish Market is Seattle, which has posted an opening window on its website saying “the Copper River opens soon! Stay up to date with what’s fresh and special offers.”

Once the fish start coming in on May 16, Pike Place will be posting by the pound prices for Copper River sockeye and Chinook fillets, plus whole fish. Fresh wild Pacific kings on hand at Pike Place are priced at $59.99 a pound for fillets and $39.99 a pound for whole fish.

Online Anchorage seafood purveyor FishEx is offering 15 percent off of its $46.95 per pound price for Copper River sockeye “premium portions” for those who preorder.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials announced this past week that the first opener would be a 12-hour period, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on May 16, with waters within the Chinook salmon inside closure area closed during this period.

During the commercial fishing season subsistence fishing is allowed in the Copper River District concurrent with the time and area of commercial fishing periods until the Copper River District closes at the end of the season. Copper River District waters, excluding the Chinook salmon inside closure area, will also be open to subsistence fishing from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on all Saturdays between May 15 and Oct. 31, for those holding subsistence permits. Permits are available from ADF&G during regular business hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

ADF&G officials in Cordova said the Miles Lake sonar camp was scheduled to deploy on May 6, but the south bank of the Copper River at the sonar site was still covered with shore ice as of May 3.

Last year, the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association provided $75,000, the Cordova District Fishermen United $7,000, and area processors another $28,000 toward the purchase of an ARIS sonar system and existing sonar system upgrades for the Miles Lake field camp. With the new sonar system and upgrades, the department will be able to evaluate salmon length measurements at the field camp, with the ultimate goal of in-season differentiation of large Chinook salmon from smaller salmon. The Prince William Sound Science Center’s Lower Copper River Sonar Station will also be up and running soon near the mouth of Clear Martin River on the lower east side of the Copper River with funding provided by the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association, ADF&G officials said.

Commercial salmon fishing in certain areas of the Bering River District will also be open for a 12-hour harvest period from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 16.

State fishery managers said additional commercial salmon fishing opportunity in the Bering River district will be contingent on accurate/timely harvest reporting as well as in-season run strength indicators for Bering River sockeye salmon stocks.

In Prince William Sound subsistence fishing will open on Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. between May 15 and Oct. 31 during the commercial fishing season. Those subsistence permits are also available from the Cordova ADF&G office only during regular business hours.

Here’s a look back at The Cordova Times coverage of the 2018 Copper River Opener: