|2012 Copper River Salmon Report|
Bernie with a 35 lb. beauty!
We just received our first Copper River king and sockeye salmon of the season and as usual they're gorgeous, bright, beautiful, firm, shining and just dripping with fat and flavor! The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game (ADFG) projected a preliminary forecast for the season at 27,000 kings and 1.4 million sockeye. As far as the kings go these numbers should be close to the 10-year average of 30,000 fish.
The early openers are only 12 hours long and may increase to 48-72 hours as the season progresses. The ADFG monitors the escapement (fish that pass their sonar counters) and biologist do aerial surveys to help determine when fishing will be allowed. This year's first 12 hour opener yielded 1,100 kings and 155,000 sockeyes compared to last years 1,658 kings and 101,957 sockeyes. Two areas where fish are caught are at the mouth of the river and what is called the inside areas (where a lot of the kings are caught). For right now the inside areas are closed for fishing, meaning kings will be very tight for the end of this week. We're hoping for a few kings for the weekend and more for next week, we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed.
The good news for Memorial Day cookouts is that lots of sockeye salmon are being caught. We make such a big deal about the regal 30-50 lb. kings that the sockeyes, or reds, often take second fiddle. These fish, at their best (and Copper River sockeyes will be our best of the year) are rich and delicious. Average size 4-6 lbs. sockeyes have the brightest red flesh of any salmon. They're flavor is a little more pronounced than the other five species of Pacific salmon and since they are generally leaner than the kings they can overcook if you're not careful. Fortunately the Copper River sockeyes are fattier than most for the same reason that the kings are. In order to fight their way up the mighty 300-mile long river these fish feed heavily and really beef up for the trip. Because of the larger number of sockeyes compared to the kings, the price is always a lot less and we're already seeing much better prices this season due to the big early catches.
Our fun, fantastic, easy and delicious cedar planked salmon with Monahan's Irish whiskey maple glaze works just as well with the sockeye as it does the king. Kick off Memorial Day and the grilling season with what is truly one of the world's finest wild delicacies - Copper River king and sockeye salmon!
We have to give thanks to the Copper River fishermen and the state of Alaska for its amazing job of conservation and management.
If you'd like to read more about what makes these fish so special, read my post from last year.