The first wild king salmon of the season landed in Seattle on Tuesday, May 16, after being caught in the Copper River during the first opener on Monday, May 15. The fish weighed 34 pounds and sold for over $30 a pound when whole. The first few openers on the Copper River are notorious for their exorbitant prices on wild salmon. This year’s forecast predicts 53,000 wild kings will return to spawn, which is 15% above the ten-year average of spawning king salmon on the Copper River. Of these 53,000 fish, the escapement goal (the number of fish needed to spawn to maintain or increase the current population level) is between 21,000 and 31,000 fish. That means they have to count, using sonar at the river’s mouth, approximately 30,000 kings going upstream undisturbed to spawn in order to sustainably manage the population. That’s how wild salmon fishery management is conducted in Alaska. They actually count each individual fish heading upstream.
The wild sockeye run in the Copper River is forecasted to reach 1.7 million fish this year, which is 14% below the ten-year average sockeye run on the Copper River. They will allow a commercial harvest of up to 1 million sockeyes this year. When will sockeye salmon become affordable for the average restaurateur? Generally speaking, by the first week of June, after the Memorial Day holiday, whole sockeye salmon will sell for less than $10/lb and fillets for less than $15/lb. Copper River kings, however, never really become affordable. With such a small harvest, roughly 10,000 fish, there is never enough supply on the market at one time to drive down the price.
Prices are subject to change.