Bill Webber of Cordova aboard the Paradigm Shift

 

Salmon fishermen at Copper River were back out on the water Monday following a first successful opener for sockeye’s and kings last week.  The Copper River fishery marks the official start of Alaska’s salmon season each year and by all accounts the season appears to be on a good track.

“At the end of the day I had to be happy.”

Bill Webber runs the Paradigm Shift out of Cordova.

“The fish were definitely bigger than previous years. It looks like things might be back to normal.”

The first 12-hour opener on May 16 produced a catch of 2,300 king salmon and 20,400 sockeyes by 480 landings.

Being back out on the water in a matter of days was a big relief after last year’s early harvest was the second lowest in 120 years.

Fishermen also were happy about the record starting prices. At the end of the first opener, they were reported at topping $10 a pound for sockeyes and $14 for kings. That compares to   $8.50 and kings, respectively, last May.

There was the usual hoopla as the first fish were swooped away to Anchorage, Seattle and other Outside hot spots.

Bill Webber sold his first catches directly to customers he’s built up over decades of fishing.

“This is my 52nd year and my 16th year of having vertically integrated my fishing business to become not only the harvester but the processor, the marketer, the logistics person, wearing all the hats in the business, so to speak. It’s been a fun journey.”

Webber has revamped his boat into a catcher processor and he is renowned for the higher tech tools he’s built to enhance salmon quality.  An automated intravenous pressure bleeding system he developed five years ago has been upgraded with cell phone technology.

I built the first version 1.0 and now am up to version 3.0 using some newer technology and some of the electronics we’re able to change our settings for the control system with an application we’ve installed on our phones. Which is way cool.”

Meanwhile, one more opener should give a better indication of the salmons’ staying power at the Copper River.

Webber says Mother Nature can always throw a curve ball, but right now the fleet feels pretty optimistic for a good fishery.

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