Copper River salmon harvest flows into marketplace

Fresh Copper River Salmon Nicoise at Orso in Anchorage on Friday, May 24, 2019. Photo by Annette Potter/ The Cordova Times

Happy days are here again for seafood aficionados hankering for a taste of fresh Copper River sockeye and Chinook salmon.

Since the Copper River salmon commercial fishery opened on May 16, harvesters have brought in upwards of 180,000 fish. Preliminary data compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s office in Cordova as of Tuesday, May 28, put the count at upwards of 168,336 red, 7,041 king and 4,710 chum salmon brought in during a total of 1,764 deliveries by the drift gillnet fleet .

Data was still being compiled on the fourth opener, on Monday, Memorial Day, May 27, and the partial catch estimate stood at 32,359 sockeye, 537 kings and 504 chums for a total of 33,400 fish.

The first opener, on May 16 included 473 deliveries, including 20,534 sockeyes, 2,309 kings, 122 chum and a single pink salmon, for an overall catch of 22,966 fish.

The second opener on May 20 boosted the overall harvest to some 56,803 fish, including 53,400 sockeyes, 1,755 kings and 1,648 chums brought in in 483 deliveries.  Fishermen topped that total in the third opener on May 24, with 569 deliveries, including 62,043 sockeyes, 2,440 kings and 2,436 chums, for a total of 66,919 fish, according to ADF&G.

This preliminary count was compiled by state fishery management biologists, who said that so far the fishery is coming in as forecast.

Given their first of the season celebrity and their reputation for quality for quality, Copper River reds and kings are in demand on restaurant menus and in retail shops too.

Chefs at Jens Restaurant in Anchorage had on the menu fresh Copper River king salmon grilled and served with Romesco sauce and roasted corn salsa, while at Orso, the seafood entrees featured fresh pan seared Copper River sockeyes with asparagus, baby carrots, red onion, artichokes, grape tomatoes and fresh lemon, plus fresh Copper River king salmon, grilled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon, garlic lemon herb grilled asparagus and baby potatoes.

At $13.99 a pound, packages of fresh Copper River sockeye salmon fillets were selling quickly at Costco stores in Anchorage. The highest retail price in Anchorage for sockeye portions on that day was $86.95 a pound for sockeye portions at FishEx. Photo by Margaret Bauman/for The Cordova Times

For those eager to prepare their own Copper River sockeye entrees at home the best deal in town was $13.99 a pound for Copper River sockeye fillets at Costco stores. Others were scooping up fresh sockeye fillets at 10th & M Seafoods for $21.95 a pound, and New Sagaya’s seafood counter was offering five pounds of Copper River sockeye fillets for $209.95, or $41.99 a pound the week of May 29. 10th & M also had Copper River king fillets for $59.95 a pound.

FishEx, an online purveyor of wild Alaska seafood, was posting $86.95 a pound for Copper River king salmon portions and $46.95 for Copper River sockeye portions.

Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle had whole Copper River kings for $39.95 a pound, Copper River king fillets for $49.99 a pound, Copper River sockeyes at $99.95 per fish and Copper River sockeye fillets for $29.99 a pound.

Costco stores in Anchorage had fresh Copper River sockeye fillets for $13.99 a pound on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, easily the lowest price in town. Photo by Margaret Bauman/for The Cordova Times