First opener for reds and kings at the Copper River
Alaska’s 2023 salmon season officially gets underway on Monday, May 15 with the arrival of sockeyes and Chinook to the Copper River near Cordova.
State fishery managers have announced there will be a 12-hour opener starting at 7am for the drift gillnet fleet.
The 2023 Copper River sockeye salmon total run forecast is estimated at 1,646,000 fish, which is 14% below the 10-year average. That would produce a commercial harvest of 987,000 sockeye salmon for the season.
For Chinook salmon, the total run forecast is estimated at 53,000, 15% above the recent 10-year average. No Chinook catch predictions were provided yet by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.
Alaska’s first fresh salmon of the season always creates extreme interest for restaurateurs, mostly outside of the state.
Pre-orders of fresh Copper River Chinook salmon at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, for example, were said to be “brisk” with retail prices for fillets starting at $78.50 per pound.
Fresh sockeye fillets were being offered at $68.50 per pound. Pre-orders of whole sockeyes start at $52.50 per pound and $54.50 for whole Chinook.
Following the start at Copper River, other salmon fisheries will quickly open across Alaska throughout the summer and into the fall.
State managers are predicting a total Alaska commercial salmon catch for 2023 of nearly 190 million fish, mostly due to an increase in pink salmon.
That is a 16% increase from the 163 million salmon taken in 2022 which had a dockside value of over $720 million.
The breakdown of this year’s Alaska salmon catch is expected to include 78,000 Chinook salmon, just over 48 million sockeyes, under three million cohos, 16 million chum salmon and more than 122 million pinks.