As commercial harvesters brace for the famed Copper River salmon fishery set to open in mid-May, with indications of a declining run, they’re hoping for the best, forecasts notwithstanding, and aficionados of the oil-rich fish are lining up to order.
“It is that time of year when the phone is ringing off the hook for the Copper River season,” said Hilary Branyik at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. “We are hoping for a longer season than last year. The demand for the Copper River season is always high, and we are happy you provide such a special fish to our long-time regular customers as well as new customers.”
60° North Seafoods in Cordova has not set its Alaska retail price yet, but for its sales through Sena Sea Seafoods in Washington state the preorder price is $54 a pound for sockeye fillets and $68 a pound for king fillets.
Pike Place Fish Market is busy taking orders for fresh Copper River sockeye fillets at $49.99 a pound and Copper River king fillets at $79.99 a pound.
Copper River Seafoods, with offices in Cordova and Anchorage, meanwhile, is accepting orders for Copper River sockeye fillets at $49.95 a pound and king fillets for $69.95 a pound.
The online seafood marketing shop FishEx, also in Anchorage, is promoting preorders at $44.95 a pound for sockeyes and $78.95 a pound for kings.
10th & M Seafoods, a prime seafood retailer in Anchorage, has not yet posted prices.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists are predicting a total run of nearly 1.3 million reds, which would be 37.4% less than the most recent 10-year average of some 2.1 million sockeyes. The commercial harvest forecast for the Copper River district is 652,000 sockeyes, 218,000 coho and 13,000 Chinook. The chum forecast is for 2.66 million fish, including wild and hatchery stocks.
ADFG also anticipates over than 19 million pink salmon will return to Prince William Sound in 2021, which would be 27.5% above the 10-year average.