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.

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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
5/17/2021 2,068 25,010 12.09 8,159 42,030 5.15
5/20/2021 1,160 15,106 13.02 11,873 60,907 5.13
5/24/2021 2,031 24,812 12.22 32,720 167,226 5.11
6/9/2021 519 6,754 13.01 37,981 205,375 5.41

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:

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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.

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Friday, June 4, 4:40 pm PST

Deja vu

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.

"As we look back at previous years, 2020 and 2018, we find ourselves repeating the communications that we delivered then," the company said.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2:30 pm PST

Closed (again)

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.

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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.

That has both buyers and fishermen concerned. Read what they have to say here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

Catch Date Chinook Sockeye Chum
5/17/2021 1,957 8,197 173

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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.

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Tuesday, May 18, 10:30 am PST

The fish have arrived!

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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.

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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.

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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."

The state fisheries regulators forecast a total Copper River sockeye harvest of 652,000 fish.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

The ex-vessel value for all species harvested in the 2020 Alaska commercial salmon fishery fell 56 percent to $295.2 million (€249.8 million).

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.