Scott Blake, co-founder and chief executive officer of Copper River Seafoods, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, celebrating the Cordova-based seafood processing company’s celebration of the Copper River salmon fishery opener with delivery of Chinook and sockeye salmon to Anchorage in 2017. File photo by Margaret Bauman

Things are looking up for the Copper River wild sockeye salmon fishery set to open in mid-May, and Copper River Seafoods is going all out to celebrate with a First Fish Anchorage Party to feed and educate several hundred people on the cultural and economic value of those reds. 

The 2024 wild Copper River sockeye salmon total run forecast is strong at 1,965,000 fish, in a forecast range of 1,572,000 to 2,358,000 fish, or 13% above the 10-year average of 1,740,000 sockeyes, while the wild Chinook salmon run is forecast at 2% below the 10-year average of 48,000 kings. 

The annual event celebrating the first big harvest of wild sockeye salmon in the Copper River, normally held in a downtown Anchorage venue, is being brought to the Hilltop Ski Area this year for three hours on the late afternoon of May 18, at reduced ticket prices aimed at attracting up to 500 members of the Anchorage area community. 

There guests can partake of creative Copper River salmon treats prepared by chefs from Glacier Brewhouse, Orso, Birch & Alder, Simon and Seaforts, 49th State Brewing Company, Fish ON!, Camp Grill, and Ho’Mage — while enjoying live music by Sassafras, door prizes including a Copper River king, a live auction, and family-friendly atmosphere, complete with “Buckin’ Salmon” rides and games for youngsters.   

Proceeds from the raffle are to be donated for scholarships for underserved youth at the Hilltop Ski Area, while live auction proceeds will go to an Anchorage charity benefitting cancer patients, said CRS spokeswoman Cassandra Squibb. 

Participants also will get to vote for their favorite dish and watch the crowning of the People’s Choice Chef.   

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Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle is already taking pre-orders for the succulent Copper River reds and Chinooks, at $159.96 apiece for whole Copper River sockeyes and $489.93 for whole Copper River kings. The world-famous seafood market has priced fillets of wild Copper River sockeye salmon at $59.99 a pound and fillets of wild Copper River kings at $99.99 a pound. 

Copper River Seafoods and 60° North in Cordova, which bills itself as Copper River’s premium seafood processor, are also bracing for orders of the first runs of these prized fish.  

This story was originally published in the May 3 issue of The Cordova Times.

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