The wild salmon season in Alaska officially kicked off May 17. IntraFish will be tracking the latest developments throughout the season as they happen, from Copper River to Bristol Bay and beyond. We'll have prices, catches, real-time analysis and news throughout the season. Bookmark this page or sign up for one of our daily newsletters to keep up with the latest news, updates, social media posts and analysis.
Wednesday, July 28, 4:30 am PST
Waiting for the pinks to show
Fishing for Bristol Bay sockeye is all but finished, and the catch is just shy of 40 million fish, thanks to a record run of more than 64 million fish.
Overall, Alaska’s total salmon harvest is now up 5 percent from the year-to-date total for 2020 (2019 for pinks), according to a Tuesday update provided by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).
The total harvest of over 85 million fish so far is now 45 percent of the preseason projected harvest of slightly more than 190 million salmon, but the harvest of pink salmon has not yet peaked. The preseason forecast called for a harvest of 124.2 million pinks. So far, just over 32 million pinks have been caught.
"The pink salmon harvest over the past two weeks has been especially strong and followed a slow start," according to Dan Lesh, a consultant with the McKinley Research Group, which put together the ASMI update.
The total pink salmon year-to-date harvest now only trails 2019's by 8 percent after being down 70 percent two weeks ago. Alaska pink salmon harvests usually peak in early to mid-August. One area of concern, however, is the size of the pinks harvested. The fish have been generally smaller. In Prince William Sound, where fishing has been strong, fish size is down 4 percent.
Monday, July 26, 2:30 pm PST
How does the 2021 compare?
At around 39.3 million sockeye salmon harvested, Bristol Bay fishermen are seeing harvest levels nearing last year's.
Thursday, July 22, 5:00 am PST
A record run in Bristol Bay
Bristol Bay’s sockeye salmon run set a new record with 63.2 million sockeye returning to the world's largest sockeye watershed as of July 20, besting the 2018 record of 62.9 million fish.
Catch rates in the Bay slowed significantly this week. Nevertheless, the total sockeye catch now stands at 38.6 million fish, exceeding the preseason forecast of 36.4 million fish.
As of Monday, Silver Bay Seafoods, OBI Seafoods and North Pacific had all posted base prices of $1.25 (€1.06) per pound for the sought-after sockeye salmon, a 15 cent (€0.12) increase over the first price of the season Peter Pan announced in June. The price is a significant jump compared to the 70 cents (€0.59) base price paid last year, which processors attributed to unusual COVID-fueled market conditions. Peter Pan has since upped its base price to match the other processors.
“This season’s record-breaking salmon run is a reminder of what’s at stake, and what we could lose if we don’t protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine, said Katherine Carscallen, director of the group Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.
Wednesday, July 21, 4:30 am PST
Attention turns to pinks
With the Bristol Bay sockeye run coming to an end, the attention is now turning toward Alaska pink salmon catch.
Last week saw an early season surge of pink salmon with 9.5 million of the fish harvested, according to a weekly summary provided by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
The harvest spike was driven by the Prince William Sound region, where pink salmon harvests year-to-date are up 21 percent compared to 2019. However, in other regions of the state, pink harvests are currently well behind the 2019 pace, according to the weekly summary.
Statewide, just over 21 million pinks have been harvested so far. The preseason forecast called for a harvest of 124.2 million pinks.
Monday, July 19, 2:30 pm PST
Starting to wind down
At 38 million fish as of July 18, the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon harvest has now gone well beyond what was forecasted by Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG). However, fishing is starting to slow down in many major river districts.
The Nushagak and Ugashik Districts are still well above their average harvest pace, but Egegik and Naknek-Kvichak are running further behind their 5-year average harvest, according to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA). A total of 351,000 sockeye were harvested yesterday in Bristol Bay on July 18, with the 2021 harvest about 8 percent higher than the 5-year average.
Friday, July 16, 1:45 pm PST
The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon harvest has now hit its forecast of 36.4 million fish as of July 15, although fishing is starting to slow down in some of the river districts. That's still about 18 percent more fish than what was harvested at this time last year.
The Nushagak River has slowed quite a bit down since the early days in July, hauling in 63,000 fish. Meanwhile the eastside districts that include Ugashik, Egegik and Naknek-Kvichack hauled in a total of 652,000 fish.
Thursday, July 15, 12:00 pm PST
Approaching forecast levels
As of July 14, fishermen in Bristol Bay have harvested a little over 35 million fish, getting closer and closer to ADFG's predictions for a 36.4-million sockeye harvest for the season.
The total run currently stands at nearly 57 million, which is around 14 percent above the 50 million fish ADFG predicted would return to the bay this year.
However, the harvest still doesn't outpace the overall totals for 2018 and 2019. That might not be the case for long. ADFG Biologist Tim Sands told IntraFish with the east side fishing districts such as the Ugashik and Naknek-Kvichak picking up steam in recent days, the total Bristol Bay sockeye harvest for the season will likely break 40 million.
Thursday, July 15, 6:00 am
Thursday morning, the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon harvest stood at 33.49 million fish fish, pushing it to over 90 percent of the preseason harvest forecast of 36.4 million fish. While fishing on the Nushagak has slowed from its torrid pace in early July, eastside fishing districts are picking up steam.
Over 6.7 million fish have been harvested so far in the Egegik District, and nearly 6.9 million have been caught in the Naknek-Kvichak District. The Nushagak catch sits at more than 16.9 million fish.
Tuesday, July 13, 3:00 pm
Eastside finally picking up
Thanks to more fish on the Eastside, Bristol Bay fishermen have hauled in a little over 31 million fish. The Ugashik hauled in 616,000 sockeye on July 12 , and the Naknek-Kvichak hauled in 698,000.
Monday, July 12, 5:20 am
Bristol Bay catch now nearly 75 percent of preseason forecast
After another busy weekend on the water, the total harvest of sockeye in Bristol Bay now stands at 26.7 million fish, 73 percent of the 36.4 preseason catch forecast.
The Nushagak District, as it has from the start of the fishery, leads all other fishing areas in Bristol Bay with a catch of nearly 15 million fish. The Egegik and Naknek-Kvichak combined so far account for 10.4 million fish.
"It's been absolutely crazy fishing," Bristol Bay Fishermen James Radon told IntraFish. "It’s been way different from other years with the how hard the fish has been hitting as in the amount of fish. I've been up here for eight years and this has probably been the most intense fishing yet."
Friday, July 9, 2:40 pm
Four days of over 1-million-fish catch
Bristol Bay's Nushagak River district has now experienced four consecutive days in a row with catches over 1 million that occurred July 4-8.
The district's total catch through July 8 at nearly 13.6 million makes up nearly 38 percent of the 36.4 million fish ADFG forecasted would be harvested this year. A total of nearly 22.9 million fish have been harvested through July 8 of this year.
The four days in a row of over one million harvest is a record, according to ADFG's Tim Sands. "We are now enjoying the second largest run to the Nushagak District," he told IntraFish.
Thursday, July 8, 12:30 pm
Bristol Bay's eastside is picking up steam
Things have been booming in Bristol Bay's westside fisheries this summer. But the eastside is also starting to come online.
ADFG reported that on July 7, fishermen working the eastside of the bay harvested 561,000 fish in the Naaknek-Kvichack, 206,000 fish in the Ugashik and 610,000 in the Egegik river districts.
Thanks largely to the mighty Nushagak, the total number of fish caught through July 7 now account for around 58 percent of the 36.4 million fish ADFG forecasted to be harvested in Bristol Bay this season.
But other scientists say that forecast could fall short. Read our latest story on Bristol Bay to find out why.
Tuesday, July 6, 3:40 pm
With Bristol Bay Nushagak slowing, fishermen are waiting on the eastside
Data from Port Moller is showing Bristol Bay's Nushagak river district has crossed the 50 percent point for its season totals, with the total harvest set to top 20 million.
Meanwhile Bristol Bay's Eastside district, which includes the Naknek-Kvichak and Egegik/Ugashik areas, is trailing predictions.
Luke Clay, who was harvesting salmon salmon in the Naknek Tuesday for a major Alaska processor, told IntraFish fishing was scarce. The processor is still considering where to place Clay's vessel due to the uncertain fishing in the river district.
Friday, July 2, 1:41 pm PST
More records set amid windy weather
High winds didn't stop Bristol Bay's Nushagak district fishermen from setting another single-day catch record at over 1.8 million fish on Thursday, smashing the previous day's record. The total catch in Bristol Bay as of July 1 now stands at 9 million, which is nearly a quarter of the way to the 34.6 million fish ADFG predicted would be harvested this season.
However fishermen have reported high winds in the bay. On June 30 Alaska State Troopers responded to calls of a boat taking on water.
Friday, July 2, 1:00 PM PST
Fisherman dies in boat sinking
Commercial fisherman Lance Eric Norby, 45, of Arlington, Texas, died after a vessel he was on sank in the south end of Nushagak Bay on Thursday morning with three people on board, reports KDL radio. Norby was the captain of the Pneuma.
Alaska State Troopers received a call around 5 a.m. Thursday morning that the vessel was taking on water and three people were in the water.
Other vessels, including the fishing boats the Fortress and the Last Frontier, went to the aid of the stranded fishermen. The Coast Guard lowered a rescue swimmer but determined that Norby was dead. The other two fishermen we rescued.
Thursday, July 1, 3:30 PM PST
Nushagak sets single-day record
Wednesday's harvest in Bristol Bay's Nushagak river district set a single-day record for sockeye salmon with nearly 1.8 million fish caught.
This year's Bristol Bay total sockeye harvest stands at nearly 6.5 million fish, which is 24 percent ahead of the previous five-year average through June 30. The total Bristol Bay sockeye harvest forecast is for 36.4 million fish. The total run in Bristol Bay is at around 10.6 million.
Harvests in the Port Moller Test Fishery have been substantial in recent days, suggesting big catches should continue.
Tuesday, June 28, 2:50 pm PST
'A less compressed run'
After a slow start to the season, the pace of salmon harvests is picking up, according to Dan Lesh, a consultant with McKinley Research Group.
The total number of salmon harvested is now about 82 percent of last year’s total at this point (2019 for pink salmon), up from 67 from last week.
Pink salmon harvests are down so far compared to 2019, but peak harvest is not expected for more than a month.
Bristol Bay's sockeye harvest continues to be outpacing last year's. As of Tuesday, there have been just over 4.1 million fish caught, more than double what was harvested at this time last year.
"Early indicators from the Port Moller test fishery point to a 2021 total Bristol Bay harvest in line with the preseason forecasts, with potential for a less compressed run and particularly strong Nushagak area harvests," said Lesh.
A strong, early salmon run would come as a welcome relief to fishermen who experienced last year's majorly compressed run.
Last year, fishermen experienced an unprecedented rush of fish in July where daily catch and escapement exceeded 3 million salmon for more than a week. The crunch caused several processors in Alaska to put fishermen on limits, just to keep up.
Monday, June 28, 2:45 pm PST
Inching over 3 million
Since Sunday, over 3 million sockeye have been caught in Bristol Bay, with the highest-performing rivers districts continuing to be the Egegik and Nugashak. The Naknek-Kvichak fishing is also starting to come online.
The data coming out of the Port Moller test fishery, which experts say typically is a good indicator of run strength, so far matches the University of Washington's preseason forecast of a Bristol Bay sockeye run of 50.9 million fish, according to Curry Cunningham, a fisheries ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who researches salmon runs in Bristol Bay.
Friday, June 25, 1:30 pm PST
The run is on
The Bristol Bay total run is a little over 1.9 million as of June 24. The total catch is 734,003 and total escapement is at 572,194. The total run is more than three times what it was at this time last year, when it was 615,820. The total catch is five times larger than it was at this time last year at 90,800, according to ADFG.
Other areas for Alaska salmon fishing are more of a mixed bag.
The Alaska salmon harvest remains behind where it was at this point in 2020 (2019 for pink salmon), but the pace of the harvest started to catch up in the past week, largely because of strong sockeye harvests in the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak regions, according to Dan Lesh, a consultant with McKinley Research Group.
Monday, June 21, 1:50 pm PST
Bristol Bay's summer salmon season is ramping up. On Monday ADFG announced the harvest through June 20 in Bristol Bay's Egegik District was 53,000 fish, bringing the season total to 136,000 fish.
The Egegik district has already had one commercial harvesting period. The recent stock composition estimate of fish in Bristol Bay taken together with strong catches suggest the Nushagak District should start to also see many more fish sometime between June 22 and June 26, according to Scott Raborn with the environmental research firm LGL.
The Bristol Bay salmon season is also kicking off this year with Peter Pan releasing very early base prices that far exceed last year's announced base price. However, fishermen can receive bonuses for fish that are bled and iced.
Tuesday, June 10, 5:11 pm PST
Fresh figures from the Copper River salmon fishery show that Tuesday's fisheries opener was the best haul for sockeye so far, giving disappointed fishermen and processors a glimmer of hope for the remainder of the season.
|Date||Chinook Count||Chinook Weight Pounds||Chinook Avg. Weight||Sockeye Count||Sockeye Weight Pounds||Sockeye Avg. Weight|
The Alaska Department of Fish & Game announced Thursday that another opening will take place Monday, June 14.
The harvest timing for sockeye remains roughly in-line with last year:
Tuesday, June 8, 3:29 pm PST
Small signs of life in Copper River fishery
Weeks after the last opening, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) announced Tuesday that commercial fishing in the Copper River district would be allowed on Wednesday, June 9 for 12 hours.
ADF&G made the decision after clocking increased daily escapement of salmon into the river systems at its sonar counting station.
The cumulative sonar count through June 8 was 220,989 fish, slightly shy of the 245,631 fish that were projected by this date to meet the in-river run goal.
The last commercial fishing opening in the area was May 24, putting this season's catch around the level of last year's dismal harvest, but well below 2019 and the five-year average.
Friday, June 4, 4:40 pm PST
ADF&G announced to fishermen's dismay the Copper River District will remain closed to commercial fishing over the weekend. The next commercial opener could be announced Monday, the agency said.
Alaska direct-to-consumer salmon company Paradigm Seafoods described experiencing "deja vu" in its recent post on the lackluster season.
Wednesday, June 2, 2:30 pm PST
The Copper River fishery is closed yet again, said ADF&G.
To date, the sonar count is the 13th lowest on record since 1978. Cumulative commercial harvest this year is the fourth lowest harvest to-date in the last 50 years. Cumulative sonar count through June 1 is 63,585 fish, whereas 148,048 fish are projected by this date to meet the district's in-river run goal.
The season is shaping up to be slightly worse than last year in terms of canceled openers.
"At this point last year, we had one more fishing period through this date," ADF&G Area Management Biologist Jeremy Botz told IntraFish.
Tuesday, June 1, 3:00 pm PST
Another missed opportunity
Copper River salmon fishermen in Alaska are entering yet another week with no opener.
To date, the sonar count is the 13th lowest on record dating back to 1978. The cumulative commercial harvest is the fourth lowest harvest to date in the last 50 years, according to ADF&G.
The cumulative sonar count through May 31 was 54,154 fish, which is only around 41 percent of the fish expected to pass through Miles Lake Sonar Station, where fishery biologists use sonar to estimate the salmon escapement in the Copper River.
Tuesday, June 1, 10:00 am PST
E&E Foods to buy again from Alaska's Kuskokwim Bay
Commercial fishing will return to Kuskokwim Bay this summer for the second year in a row, reports Alaska public media site KYUK.
Alaska Fish and Game Assistant Area Management Fishery Biologist Ben Gray said that commercially harvested Kuskokwim Bay salmon will have the same buyer as last year: E&E Foods. The Seattle-based company buys fish across Alaska.
Monday, May 31, 10:00 am PST
Bristol Bay kicks off
The 2021 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon commercial fishing season has officially opened for business.
Alaska fisheries officials announced the first fishing opening began Tuesday in the Naknek-Kvichak District, and will run until June 25. Fishing in the Egegik river district during its first opening will continue until June 18. Fishing in the Ugashik District has also begun and will continue until June 23.
Early season fishing tends to be light. The bulk of the famous Bristol Bay run usually arrives in force during the first week of July.
The 2021 Bristol Bay sockeye catch could reach 36.4 million fish, while the total run could be 50 million fish, according to a new outlook released this month by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG).
The total run, if it reaches 50 million fish, would be nearly 4 percent greater than the most recent 10-year average of Bristol Bay runs (48.14 million) and 42 percent greater than the long-term average of 35.12 million fish.
A Bristol Bay harvest of 36.4 million fish would be around 13 percent greater than the most recent 10-year harvest of 32.23 million, and around 66 percent greater than the long-term average harvest of 21.88 million salmon.
Opening dates for other river districts have not yet been announced.
Friday, May 28, 2:00 pm PST
Slow sales at retail, more direct-to-consumer demand
"Sales are very slow, we are currently selling sockeye fillets for $39.99 and King Fillets at $59.99," Adam Branin, a buyer with QFC told IntraFish.
Kyle Lee, an Alaska fisherman and founder of new online e-commerce supplier Alaskan Salmon Company, told IntraFish his company had to to cut off its king salmon sales for now.
"But we have been able to fulfill our sockeye demand. We’re still receiving a lot of customer interest in both species," he said.
Wednesday, May 26, 7:50 am PST
Two openers in, but icy conditions persist
Preliminary harvest estimate from the 12-hour period that occurred on Monday, May 24 was 2,000 Chinook and 32,700 sockeye salmon with 448 deliveries reported. This compares to a projected harvest of 56,100 sockeye salmon for this period.
Icy and cold conditions continue to prevent Copper River salmon from making their way to fishermen's nets.
So far, there have been three open fishing periods in the Copper River district, beginning with the May 17 opening, followed by May 20 and May 24.
Friday, May 21, 5:30 pm PST
Seattle-based Peter Pan Seafood is backing up its promise to put focus on fleet recruitment by paying what it claims are record grounds prices for both sockeye and kings in the early openings of the Copper River salmon season. Will other processors try to match it? It's early in the season, but the pressure will certainly be on them.
Wednesday, May 19, 10:00 am PST
Copper River salmon both for retail and foodservice remains costly, as waters have been cold and fishing has been slow.
Wednesday, May 19, 4:15 pm PST
Copper River salmon prices start off high (as usual)
Saying Copper River salmon is expensive this time of year is like saying the sky is blue. It's a given that early buyers will pay ridiculous amounts for the fish.
Here are the first reported sockeye and king prices, which show this year is liable to be a good one for fishermen and suppliers.
Wednesday, May 19, 01:13 pm PST
Despite a meager harvest, customers remain eager
While numbers remain dismal, ADFG said there will be a Thursday fishing period for Copper River salmon. The 12-hour opener starts at 7:00 am (AKDT).
The final tally for the first Copper River opener Monday was not great. ADFG recorded a total catch of 1,960 kings and 8,200 sockeye, with 399 deliveries reported. This compares to a projected harvest of 27,100 sockeye salmon for this period, meaning the sockeye harvest was only 30 percent of what was anticipated.
In 2020, the Copper River sockeye harvest during the first opener was 1,500 fish, 12 percent of what ADFG projected at 12,400.
Despite slow fishing, foodservice operators are eager to get the first, costly shipments.
Some fish is even starting to trickle down to high-end retail.
Wednesday, May 19, 05:53 am PST
Catch numbers in for first Copper River opening
The first figures have been released for the Copper River salmon harvest. Here are the numbers, from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game:
Tuesday, May 18, 2:30 pm PST
Salmon fishing is a family affair
Seth Balint caught king salmon during Monday' s opener. And that was exciting, he told IntraFish.
"They’re not on the flats all season, so you have to get them right away," the second-generation Cordova fishermen who runs the direct-to-consumer business Wild Delta Seafoods explained. "In about a month, even three weeks you won’t be catching many of them."
Balint, who is 28 has lived in Cordova, Alaska his entire life. He purchased the permit for fishing as well as his boat from his own father.
"There are so many young fishermen my age. It's a thing around here," he added.
Tuesday, May 18, 10:30 am PST
The fish have arrived!
The Alaska Airlines fish-filled (& painted) jet touched down at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport carrying 17,000 pounds of wild Alaska Copper River salmon.
In total on Tuesday the airline is flying nearly 55,000 pounds of salmon to Seattle by Alaska Air Cargo – the first of many shipments expected this season, which runs now through September.
Tuesday, May 18, 9:30 am PST
Prices are in
Grounds prices for Copper River sockeye and kings are shaping up to be fairly similar to what fishermen saw in 2019. But the fish still needs to land in Seattle where eager buyers, chefs and consumers are eagerly awaiting its arrival.
Monday, May 17, 1:50 pm PST
Slow fishing, hopeful customers
The first day of fishing in the Copper River has proven slow, but fishermen remain optimistic.
Peter Hoepner, a Cordova-area fishermen for 36 years, told IntraFish the opener, while slow, kept fishermen hopeful that this year will not be as dismal as last year. He supplies salmon to major companies such as Trident.
"The forecast being 47 percent below the 10 year average didn’t make it too exciting," he said. "But there are more fish than last year's first opener."
While 2021's low forecast is coming on top of Copper River's 2020's "abysmal year" in the face of low harvests and prices, buyers and fishermen alike remain unfazed.
Monday, May 17, 9:10 am PST
'Let's hope some fish show up'
Alaska's Copper River sockeye salmon fishing district opened Monday for a 12-hour commercial fishing period.
While 2021's low forecast is coming on top of Copper River's 2020's "abysmal year" in the face of low harvests and prices, buyers and fishermen alike remain unfazed.
"Let's hope some fish show up for work this year," said Longtime Cordova Fishermen Bill Webber Monday in a Facebook post at the start of the fishing period.
Following a somber 2020, where Seattle-area hospital workers were among the first to enjoy season’s first catch of prized Copper River salmon from Cordova, Alaska, this year's Copper River events will be more festive.
On Tuesday, the iconic first fish will be donated by OBI Seafoods to the Seattle nonprofit, We Got This Seattle.
The public has been invited to bid on a Copper River salmon dinner prepared by celebrity chefs as a fundraiser for the organization, which feeds frontline workers and supports Seattle restaurants.
Monday, May 17, 6:45 am PST
Copper River salmon is never cheap
Though some years are better than others, one thing is for certain, Copper River sockeye and king salmon is always consistently well above standard market prices, thanks to some genius marketing, and some genuine pent-up demand.
Monday, May 17, 6:30 am PST
Sockeye supply reduction looms over market
Last fall, the poor sockeye catch and a so-so supply forecast for the 2021 season set the stage for higher prices for purchases of the world's most important wild salmon species.
Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA), which promotes wild salmon harvested in the Bristol Bay region, told members that despite dismally low base prices fishermen saw in July, the wholesale market for the fish could firm.
"It looks like we're going to be seeing a huge reduction," Wink said, noting 2013 was the last time sockeye salmon experienced similar market conditions.
Monday, May 17, 6:10 am PST
Farmed salmon is pricier this year
The early weeks of the Alaska salmon season see strong volumes of fresh fish hit retail cases, putting fresh sockeye fillets alongside the mainstay farmed salmon. This year, wild salmon hits the fresh market with a much, much stronger farmed salmon price, which could make those early season wild salmon prices seem a little less extreme:
Friday, May 14, 3:00 pm PST
How much Alaska salmon was caught last year?
It wasn't a great year in 2020, for a lot of reasons.
Adjusted for inflation, it is the lowest ex-vessel value for the fishery since 2006.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) said a total of 116.8 million fish were harvested, a 44 percent decrease from 2019 and the 13th-lowest since records began in 1975. In terms of weight, the all-species salmon harvest of 517.5 million pounds is the eighth lowest.
For a dive deep into last year's season, you can take a read through our 2020 Alaska salmon blog to track every development.
- Even a pandemic can't stop the annual Copper River salmon marketing frenzy
- Everyone is losing money in the Alaska salmon industry. Why do Peter Pan's new owners think they're different?
- Bristol Bay salmon forecast is high but still below recent years
- Shades of Silver Bay? Bristol Bay salmon fishermen may forge their own path after $130 million loss