Commercial fishermen in Southcentral Alaska are gearing up for the famed Copper River salmon opener on Monday, May 15, hopeful for a robust season, given forecasts of average runs of sockeye and Chinook salmon.
“I’m feeling really, really good about it,” said Rich Wheeler, chief executive officer of 60°North Seafoods. “We’re pretty optimistic,” said Wheeler, whose operations in Cordova have 20-30 harvesters delivering to them. “Orders are starting to build in Alaska.”
Wheeler’s wife, Sena, chief executive officer of Sena Sea, which delivers salmon to retail customers all over the Lower 48 states, said Sena Sea also has a lot of folks pre-ordering.
Copper River Seafoods in Anchorage, also expressing optimism for a good season, is accepting preorders for two eight-ounce portions of fresh wild Copper River king salmon for $69 and two eight-ounce portions of fresh wild Copper River sockeyes for $29.99. These offers are online at www.copperriverseafoods.com along with lower price deals for frozen king and sockeye portions from the 2022 season.
Pike Place Fish Market in advises that they are getting a lot of pre-orders for Copper River salmon, including fresh fillets of king salmon at $79.99 a pound, Copper River fresh fillets of sockeye salmon for $69.99 a pound, and whole fresh Copper River kings at $439.99 apiece.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) biologists in Cordova announced on Friday, May 5, that the first 12-hour opener of the 2023 season would begin a 7 a.m. on May 15, but the exact date is always subject to change, depending on weather conditions. While the Copper River District will be open for this fishery, waters within the expanded Chinook salmon inside closure area will be closed for this period.
State gillnet area management biologist Jeremy Botz in Cordova said that the Copper River is still pretty locked up with ice, but that overall weather conditions are similar to a year ago, with runs of both sockeye and Chinook salmon expected to be in the average range, and water temperatures just above freezing. Botz said he anticipates about 300 commercial fishing vessels would be participating in the opener.
The Bering River District also will open at 7 a.m. on May 15 for a 12-hour commercial drift gillnet fishing period, to target Copper River sockeyes traveling through the western portion of this district. As the overlap with the Bering River sockeye salmon run timing increases, the likelihood of future early season openings in the Bering River District will diminish, ADF&G officials said.
Copper River Seafoods on Friday, May 5, also announced plans for festivities celebrating the start of the 2023 Copper River fishery, with an event at the Petroleum Club of Anchorage on May 20, featuring tasty Copper River salmon creations by five local chefs, plus a raffle, door prizes, auction and a vote of participants to determine the People’s Choice Award for best participating chef.