Copper River harvest ebbs as other PWS fisheries open

Shopping days for those prized Copper River red salmon are numbered now as the run ebbs and other Prince William Sound commercial fisheries open, and even as some of that catch was surely being grilled nationwide on Sunday for celebrants of Father’s Day.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) biologists were keeping the Copper River District

closed, but announced Wednesday that the district would open on Thursday for a 24-hour

commercial drift gillnet fishing period. Copper River subsistence fishing had a 12-hour opener on Monday, while waters within the Chinook salmon expanded inside closure area remained closed by ADF&G.

The Bering River District also remained closed to commercial drift gillnet fishing, but the Coghill District was for the most part open for harvesting, as well as the Eshamy District. The Montague District’s Port Chalmers subdistrict opened to drift gillnet fishing on Monday for a 60-hour period. The Unakwik District also opened on Monday for a 36-hour commercial drift gillnet and purse seine harvest, as did hatcheries in the Southwestern District, for 48 hours for purse seine harvesters.

ADF&G reminded commercial buyers purchasing fish in the Prince William Sound management area that they are required to complete a processor registration form. Additional information is available at ADF&G’s Cordova office.


The preliminary overall Prince William Sound commercial salmon harvest estimate stood at 972,000 fish, including 7,000 Chinook, 439,000 chum, 3,000 humpies, and 523,000 sockeyes.

Copper River salmon were still available at select wild seafood counters, with prices holding steady. Meanwhile Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet harvesters have started to deliver their sockeye and chum salmon to processors.

Commercial harvests are also starting to come in from the Alaska Peninsula, the Egegik District of Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, and some areas of Southeast Alaska. 

The preliminary statewide harvest estimate compiled by ADF&G as of Sunday stood at 1,504,000 fish, including 976,000 sockeye, 491,000 chum, 19,0000 humpies and 18,000 Chinook salmon. The statewide harvest summary is updated online daily during the summer fishing season.

ADF&G’s pre-season salmon forecast predicts an overall harvest of about 190 million salmon, including a strong odd-year pink salmon harvest of 122 million fish, a sockeye harvest of 48 million fish (down from the record-setting 2022 season), and a keta harvest of 16 million fish, similar to the 2022 harvest.

A slight increase in the coho harvest of three million fish is also forecasted.

However, as noted by seafood economist Sam Friedman, the minimum Chinook harvest of about 142,000 fish will depend on the outcomes of a lawsuit that may potentially close Alaska’s summer and winter 2023 Southeast Chinook troll fishery. Friedman produces weekly reports of the Alaska commercial salmon fisheries in season for McKinley Research Group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Friedman noted that harvests have been strong so far this year in Prince William Sound, including a Copper River sockeye harvest up 62% year-to-date and a keta harvest across Prince William Sound that is more than twice 2022-to-date. Early season Alaska Peninsula harvests of sockeye and keta have also surpassed recent year-to-date harvests, Friedman said.