Alaska’s salmon season got off to a slow start on Thursday at the Copper River delta near Cordova.
The fishery for sockeyes and kings opened at a drizzly 7am with more than 500 gillnetters on the grounds.
“So far, a lot of pictures of empty nets being posted on Facebook.”
Bill Webber and his crew were waiting out a slack tide aboard the Paradigm Shift a few hours into the 12-hour opener. Their first sets were pretty skimpy.
“A handful of kings, all under 20 pounds and just three sockeye salmon under four pounds. Not a great start to the season.”
The slim early catches had customers scrambling to source enough Copper River salmon for their promised ‘first of the season’ celebrations.
High end restaurants from coast to coast posted specials and Alaska Airlines was again hand delivering a king salmon and featuring a chef cook off on the tarmac in Seattle. Webber said the need to fill orders pushed prices for first deliveries to record levels –
“The price wars are definitely going on in light of the low production. I’ve been hearing sockeyes are up to $8.50 and kings at $13 a pound.”
That compares to $8 and $11 for the first sockeyes and kings last year.
By Thursday afternoon, the sockeye price had increased to $9.50 a pound.
Right now the online shipper FishEx of Anchorage has Copper River king salmon selling at $79.95 a pound and $46.95 for sockeyes, both do not include shipping.
Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle has the first red salmon fillets posted at $34.99 a pound.
“This opener is taking the cake on fish prices so far.”
The Copper River salmon prices will drop off sharply after the early season hoopla fades, but the region’s fish will maintain some of the highest prices into the fall.
At the start of Thursday’s opener, Bill Webber – a 51 year fishing veteran at Copper River – was hoping the catches would take a turn for the better on the next tide.
“Hopefully the floods will start bringing some fish in from out in the Gulf. That’s always the hope. After the tide starts flooding in here We’ll probably move offshore into the rifts and start testing the waters. We’re out on a hunt to see what we can find.”
Daily salmon catches will soon be posted on the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game’s blue sheet.