Copper River fishery opens

Harvesters garner $8 for sockeyes, $11 for kings

Scott Blake, president and chief executive officer of Copper River Seafoods, gets a hand from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, holding the 40+ pound Copper River king salmon in May 2017. Photo by Margaret Bauman

Upwards of 400 fishing vessels were on the grounds for the opening of the Copper River salmon fishery on May 18, to harvest some 36,000 sockeyes and 1,900 Chinooks, and fishermen were rewarded with record grounds prices.

“It’s another record,” said Scott Blake, a veteran harvester who is president and chief executive officer of Copper River Seafoods, as he held a 40-plus pound king salmon fresh off of an Alaska Airlines jet in Anchorage the following afternoon.

Jolene Langreck, executive chef at Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage, with chef Ricky Griffin of Orso, also in Anchorage, prepared appetizers topped with citrus cured fresh Copper River sockeye salmon for Copper River Seafoods’ celebration in Anchorage of the opening of the 2017 fishery. Photo by Margaret Bauman

Fishermen braved temperatures in the low 40s and off and on rain throughout the first opener, made 481 deliveries, garnering $8 a pound for the reds and $11 for the kings, up from $7 and $9 respectively a year ago.

The 12-hour second opener, on May 22, under sunny skies, brought in another 439 deliveries, including 1,737 kings and 51,860 reds, bringing the total for the first two openers to 3,616 kings and 463,023 reds. The forecast was for rain and cooler temperatures for the rest of the week.

The average weight of the kings for all periods to date was 20.3 pounds, while sockeyes averaged 5.3 pounds, ADF&G said.

At 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage, first run sockeye salmon and king fillets were going fast, at $38.95 a pound, and $59.95 a pound respectively.


Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle heralded the arrival of the Copper River salmon with photos of fishmongers holding both whole fish and fillets. The world famous market had whole kings for $55.99 a pound, and whole reds for $143.96 a fish. Copper River king fillets were $74.99 a pound, and Copper River sockeye fillets for $47.99 a pound.

An online promotion from Copper River Seafoods offered two pounds of fresh Copper River king fillets starting at eight-ounce portions for $119.98, and two pounds of fresh Copper River red eight-ounce portions starting at $79.98.

Seafood aficionados gather around to watch the filleting of a fresh Copper River king salmon during the 2017 Copper Chef Cook-off in Seattle on May 19. Photo courtesy of Tom Sunderland, Ocean Beauty Seafoods.

Alaska Air Cargo, with four direct flights out of Cordova, delivered a total of 77,000 pounds of Copper River salmon to Anchorage and the Lower 48 within hours after the first opener ended.

“Our cargo employees are working around the clock to ensure we deliver the first catch of the coveted wild Copper River salmon to market, often within 24 hours of being pulled from the water,” said Jason Berry, managing director of Alaska Air Cargo. The carrier transports over 170 million pounds of cargo annually, including seafood, mail and freight, with the most extensive air cargo operation of any passenger airline on the west coast of the United States.

At its annual Anchorage airport event heralding the start of the fishery, Copper River Seafoods served up gourmet sockeye salmon appetizer presentations, including citrus cured sockeye, curled up delicately with capers, arugula and onion sprouts. In Seattle, the opener was celebrated with the eighth annual Copper Chef Cook-Off, in which three of Seattle’s top chefs competed for the best salmon recipe. For that annual event, now in its eighth year, Alaska Air Cargo partners with Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Trident Seafoods and Copper River Seafoods.

Executive chef John Sundstrom of Lark beat competition from executive chef Stuart Lane of Spinasse and Artusi and executive chef David Yeo of Wild Ginger. Download their competition recipes at

Prices on the famed Copper River fish were expected to start dropping as more fresh salmon come into the market.