Copper River Harvest Hits One Million Mark on Sockeyes

Commercial harvesters have topped the one million mark in their harvest of the famed Copper River sockeye salmon – which are already sold out in one popular Anchorage seafood shop – while the Chinook harvest remains below average.

Bristol Bay drift gillnetters and set netters meanwhile are starting to show up on the grounds, where the forecast is for a run of 32 million sockeyes and a harvest of nearly 23 million reds. In Upper Cook Inlet, harvesters already had taken 51,000 reds.

As of June 12, popular Anchorage seafood retailer 10th & M Seafoods still had whole Copper River kings for $18.95 a pound and king fillets for $25.95 a pound, but the reds, they said, are all gone for this season. Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle was holding forth meanwhile, with whole Copper River kings at $28.99 a pound, king fillets at $43.99 a pound, sockeye fillets at $16.99 a pound and whole sockeyes for $49.95. Their prices have not dropped.

As of June 8, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was calculating the preliminary Copper River commercial harvest at about 1,038,000 reds and 9,300 kings, and more were expected from another 36-hour opener ended on June 12.

Biologists said the cumulative sonar count through June 8, a total of 542,000 fish, came in well above the anticipated count of 292,900 fish.

An estimated 400 to 450 drift gillnetters were still on the grounds of the Copper River fishery in mid-June.

With salmon harvests underway in Southeast Alaska, Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay, state officials tabulating weekly summaries put the total wild salmon harvest through June 8 at 1,183,000 fish, including 1,051,000 sockeye, 113,000 chum and 19,000 king salmon.