The 2022 Alaska salmon season has officially started, and that means our full-season coverage kicks off as well.
First up, as always, is the Copper River salmon season. The overall run of salmon is nowhere near as large as the hype.
This year's catch in the Copper River district, however, is expected to be significantly better than last season, according to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), with sockeye harvests projected to reach 716,000 fish, a more than 75 percent jump over 2021.
However, the 2021 season isn't a high bar to cross. Last year's commercial Copper River sockeye catch of 408,000 was 68 percent below the pre-season forecast of 1.29 million, and well below the 10-year average.
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Salmon pace is picking up
The pace of early-season salmon fishing picked up in statistical week 25--which runs June 19 through June 25--according to a report produced by McKinley Research Group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).
The cumulative harvest this year of more than 4.6 million salmon is about 5% more than year-to-date 2021 (2020 for pinks), although still behind the five-year average to-date. After a slow start to the season, the Alaska Peninsula sockeye harvest picked up last week. In this region, about 2.4 million sockeye salmon have now been caught, up 16% from 2021 to-date. The pink and keta harvests are below year-to-date totals in the region. Prince William Sound harvests of sockeye and keta salmon are more than twice 2021 year-to-date harvests, although still low by historical standards.
ASMI says data on Bristol Bay should start coming in next week. Alaska Department of Fish and Game preseason forecast this year predicted a sockeye harvest of nearly 60 million sockeye, more than 80 percent of the state sockeye forecast. The bulk of the Bristol Bay harvest usually occurs in early July.
Bristol Bay's Wood River escapement passed 100,000 fish on Tuesday, reported the news site KDLG. The news means today was the first day fishermen in Bristol Bay got out on the Nushagak, where a large number of sockeye are expected to be this year.
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Waiting is the hardest part
ADF&G said it will keep the much-anticipated Nushagak river district closed as the Bristol Bay west side remains short of its sockeye salmon escapement target for the Wood River.
"Reports indicate that fish are starting to move through the district, but counts are still slow currently," ADF&G said.
Meanwhile, North Pacific Seafoods has joined Peter Pan in posting base prices of $1.15 ahead of the season's peak.
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Fishermen eager to get out there
Fishing is ramping up on Bristol Bay's east side.
ADF&G has only opened Bristol Bay's eastside district--which includes the Naknek-Kvichak and Egegik/Ugashik area-- for fishing. Together those river districts have seen a cumulative harvest of 196,362 sockeye, with the majority coming out of the Egegik.
On Monday ADF&G said it will keep the Nushagak and Wood rivers closed as the Bristol Bay west side remains short of the 100,000 sockeye salmon escapement target for the Wood River.
One fisherman told IntraFish he is "cautiously optimistic" that Bristol Bay's Nushagak District sockeye salmon run could match the approximately 29.5 million fish forecast.
Friday, June 17, 2022
Genetic stock compositions coming in
While it's still too early to tell whether or not the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run is on track with preseason forecasts, genetic data from the Port Moller test fishery, which experts say typically is a good indicator of run strength, is already showing large abundances of Egegik, Wood and Nushagak river sockeye.
Port Moller is a migration pathway for salmon headed to Bristol Bay.
The Egegik stock remains dominant at 35.5 percent, followed by the Nushagak at 34 percent.
Thursday, June 16, 2022
How big will fish get in Bristol Bay this year?
Data has started trickling in from the Port Moller Test Fishery (PMTF). Every year the test fishery help processors, fishermen, and fishery managers assess the timing, composition, and abundance of sockeye salmon returning to commercial fishing districts in Bristol Bay.
Overall, the average sockeye caught in the test fishery is around 4.6 pounds, according to Port Moller's Scott Raborn with the environmental research firm LGL.
The 2021 average was just 4.5 pounds, according to the McKinley Research Group. The 2020 average weight for sockeye was 5.1 pounds, reported Alaska Public Media.
Scientists started testing in the fishery around June 10.
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Alaska salmon harvest numbers are starting to trickle in
While salmon harvest totals are below year-to-date figures, volumes are usually so low at this stage of the season that it is much too early to draw any conclusions about the overall strength of runs, according to a report produced by McKinley Research Group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).
In Prince William Sound, the harvest of 288,000 sockeye salmon through Saturday--most of it in the Copper River district--is up dramatically from the year-to-date harvests from 2020 and 2021, but still below the 5-year-average.
Fishing has been slower this year in the southern Alaska Peninsula, a region that has been an early-season hotspot in recent years.
ADF&G's pre-season forecast predicted a harvest of 160.6 million salmon. The projections call for an especially large sockeye salmon harvest of 74 million fish largely in Bristol Bay, while other fisheries are expected to struggle.
Monday, June 13, 2022
With lots of fish, prices are dropping
The harvest timing for Copper River sockeye is significantly different from May through June of this year compared to last year, with sockeye harvests dramatically up. The influx of sockeye has been a boon to retailers in recent weeks, who continue to cut prices from their soaring highs when the fishery opened in May.
Adam Branin with QFC confirmed prices have dropped 68 percent for the fish since it was first sold at the Kroger retailer following the first opener May 17.
"Right now our retail is for $15.99 (€15.33) per pound on Copper River sockeye fillets," he said, adding he expects that price to drop even further by Wednesday.
When asked what would prompt further price cuts, he responded: "It's because they are catching a lot of fish."
At 267,400 sockeye, this year's harvest is currently up nearly 196 percent compared to last year, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Biologist Jeremy Botz told IntraFish.
The cumulative sonar count through June 10 was 302,226, a nearly 4 percent increase from what was projected by ADF&G by this time.
Copper River has seen six fishing periods so far, tracking slightly ahead of last year, when it only saw four by this time.
The harvest from the June 9 fishing period resulted in a catch of 392 king and 25,700 sockeye salmon with 257 deliveries reported. This compares to a projected harvest of 36,800 sockeye salmon for this period.
There were 90,500 sockeye salmon harvest by this time last year versus 267,400 sockeye salmon so far this year.
Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Copper River keeps its streak
ADF&G said Wednesday cumulative sonar count through June 7 was 225,300 fish, whereas 253,337 fish were projected by this date.
Preliminary harvest estimates from the 12-hour fishing period that occurred on Monday, June 6, was 810 Chinook and 63,400 sockeye salmon with 411 deliveries reported. This compares to a projected harvest of 44,700 sockeye salmon for this period.
The fishery will have another opener Thursday.
Monday, June 6, 1:00 PM PST
Protecting chum salmon
Thirteen organizations representing subsistence and commercial salmon fishermen in Western Alaska have signed a joint letter asking a fishery along the coast of the Alaska Peninsula to shut down during the month of June to prevent it from harvesting chum salmon bound for Western Alaska rivers and the Bristol Bay fishery in particular, reports Alaska news site KYUK.
Chum salmon stocks crashed to record lows last year, and the letter writers fear that another low return this summer could push the chum past the point of recovery.
Thursday, June 2, 4:00 pm PST
Copper River continues its fishing streak
Copper River fishermen got a fourth opener today. The cumulative sonar count through May 31 is 37,136 fish whereas 144,085 fish were projected by this date, according to ADF&G.
"It is better than the previous years," Bill Webber, a longtime Cordova fishermen, told IntraFish of conditions. "The hot water blob years in the Pacific are far enough behind us now. It almost feels kind of normal again, except it's close to 70 degrees out."
Tuesday, May 31, 3:00 pm PST
Here comes Bristol Bay
On Wednesday Bristol Bay's Naknek-Kvichak, Egegik and Ugashik fishing districts will all come online.
ADF&G is estimating a harvest of 59.9 million fish in Bristol Bay, which is 75 percent greater than the most recent 10-year average harvest of 34.2 million, and 170 percent greater than the long-term average harvest of 22.2 million fish.
Monday, May 30, 12:00 pm PST
More sockeye, but not a lot of fish
After three openers, Copper River fishermen have harvested 69,300 sockeye salmon, which is nearly 36 percent more than was anticipated by this time. Fishermen also harvested 1,980 king salmon with 465 deliveries reported.
Fishing is closed however for commercial uses Monday. ADF&G reported a cumulative sonar count through May 28 at 6,808 fish whereas 81,600 fish were projected by this date. ADF&G added it has now deployed all of its sonar in the area.
Kroger-owned QFCS in the Seattle and Portland area are currently selling sockeye for $24.99 (€23.18) per pound.
The next opener is expected to occur Thursday.
Friday, May 27, 1:30 pm PST
Dropping prices 'like a rock'
Copper River salmon prices have continued to drop throughout the week. Adam Branin with QFC confirmed to IntraFish prices there dropped by $10.00 this morning from even a few days ago.
He described the costs as 'dropping like a rock.'
Grounds prices for fishermen are also down as a result of more fish being available from three openers, several fishermen confirmed.
Rich Wheeler, one of the owners of Cordova's fishermen-owned Sixty North Seafoods, told IntraFish the company is currently paying $5.00 per pound for sockeye and $15.00 per pound for kings. That's compared to dramatically higher prices early on in the season.
"There's been a scarcity over last few years, and we've been spoiled," he said of previous years' prices for the fish. "Now it's more normal."
Tuesday, May 24, 3:00 pm PST
'A conservative approach continues to be warranted'
The Copper River District will open at 7:00 am on Thursday for a 12-hour commercial drift gillnet fishing period, reported ADF&G.
Cumulative sonar count through May 23 was 670 fish whereas 33,614 fish were projected by this date.
Shore ice and ice flows continue to prevent some sonar deployment. ADF&G Biologist Jeremy Botz told IntraFish it's too early to say whether the 2022 Copper River District fishery will continue to follow a similar pattern to 2018, 2020 and 2021 where fishing was limited in the district during its first month open.
"With information in hand at this point a conservative approach continues to be warranted to ensure that enough salmon are getting into the Copper River to meet inriver passage objectives," he said.
Tuesday, May 24, 10:00 am PST
Consumers shunning high prices
Prices for Copper River salmon have dropped dramatically this week, as US consumers adjust their spending to combat inflation and sharply rising food prices.
Prices are dropping significantly from their initial sticker-shock levels, Adam Branin, meat and seafood merchandiser for Kroger-owned supermarket chain QFC, told IntraFish on Monday.
Friday, May 20, 2:00 pm PST
Brr it's cold in here
The Copper River will remain closed to commercial fishermen Monday, reported ADF&G.
The cumulative sonar count through May 19 was just 98 fish whereas 6,354 fish were projected by this date, the agency said.
"Shore ice and ice flows" are currently preventing sonar deployment, ADF&G added.
Cordova Fisherman Thea Thomas told IntraFish conditions remain chilly in the region.
And despite higher prices paid to fishermen this year, inflation also remains an issue.
"Ex-vessel price is higher than last year, but with high fuel price and low catch, the earnings for fishermen are not adding up fast," she said.
On Thursday following the second opener, fishermen caught 2,700 king and 11,700 sockeye salmon with 414 deliveries reported.
Thursday, May 19, 1:00 pm PST
Happy to be fishing
It has been a somewhat slow fishing day, several fisherman participating in the second Copper River opener of the season confirmed with IntraFish. But following years where the fishery has been closed for weeks following only one opener, most fishermen are just happy some fish are being caught at all.
"I am not hearing anyone catching more than single digits," Peter Hoepfner, a longtime fisherman who provides product to Trident Seafoods from the fishery, told IntraFish.
Prices are beginning to slowly drop from their initial sticker-shock levels, however, Matthew Davis, a category manager with US supplier Shamrock Foods told IntraFish.
They're currently about $5.00 per pound lower than the opener offers, he said.
"It will probably stay stable around that range for 2-3 more openers. If there's a closure or two It can go back up," he added.
Wednesday, May 18, 1:40 pm PST
Second Copper opener on its way, first was below forecasts
The Copper River District will open at 7:00 am on Thursday for a 12-hour commercial drift gillnet fishing period. This will be the second fishing opener for the season.
Preliminary harvest estimate from the 12-hour period that occurred on Monday was 2,700 Chinook and 12,800 sockeye salmon with 384 deliveries reported.
The harvest is still low for what was projected by ADF&G at this time. The ADF&G said it expected a harvest of 20,700 sockeye salmon for this period.
Wednesday, May 18, 9:20 am PST
First prices are in
The first prices for Alaska's prized Copper River wild salmon are in, and both processors and consumers are paying even more for the fish than last year.
But with inflation impacting consumer spending, some suppliers say the prices for the fish might be too much for consumers to accept.
Wednesday, May 18, 7:40 am PST
Sockeye and king prices soar at retail
Two retail stores in Bellevue, Washington confirmed with IntraFish they do indeed have Copper River sockeye salmon, but that it will cost a pretty penny. Copper river sockeye is selling at a Bellevue Safeway for $49.99 per pound and also at a Bellevue Kroger subsidiary QFC for the same amount.
That's about 25 percent more than sockeye was at this time last year in US grocery stores.
King salmon is selling at Seattle and Portland area QFCs for $69.99 per pound, up as well from last year's price of $59.99 at the retailer.
At select Anthony's Restaurants in Seattle, eaters can pay slight more for a plate of sockeye at $55.00 or a king salmon at $75.00.
Tuesday, May 17, 11:50 am PST
Initial catch numbers are in
As of May 16, Copper River fishermen have hauled in 15,545 fish. The first season opener resulted in a catch of 2,706 king salmon and 12,800 sockeye. There were a total of 384 deliveries. That's about four times more king salmon and nearly 44 percent more sockeye than were caught during the first opener last year.
Chum catches at 39, however, decreased by about 78 percent compared to the previous opener.
While waters have remained icy, Rich Wheeler, one of the owners of Cordova's fishermen-owned Sixty North Seafoods, told IntraFish fishing was decent for the first opener.
"It wasn’t like 'Oh my God,' it was bad," he said. "It was a good fishing period."
Tuesday, May 17, 8:45 am PST
Copper River takes flight
Details are starting to trickle in about the first Alaska Airlines flight that carried 17,200 pounds of salmon into from Cordova to Seattle by Alaska Air Cargo this morning.
It's the first of many shipments expected this season, which runs now through September.
The celebratory “first fish,” sponsored this year by Copper River Seafoods, weighed in at 30 pounds.
Lusamerica Foods, a leading seafood wholesaler in the Western United States, is set to receive its first Copper River salmon of the season on Tuesday at its plant in Fife, Washington, just outside of Seattle, according to Peter Adame, the company's communications and sustainability manager.
"Salmon is our top product at Lusamerica and we’re excited to have cargo space in this 'first fish' flight," he told IntraFish. "Our plant is less than half hour from the airport, and we’ll deliver some of this first salmon to our customers in the Seattle region including, stores like Safeway, Gemini Fish Market, Pacific Northwest Best, and additional businesses like the Woodmark Hotel, Metropolitan Grill, and The Mill."
Monday, May 16, 7:05 pm PST
First deliveries, still no grounds price reported
The first deliveries of Copper River salmon hit processing companies yesterday afternoon. While no per-pound ex-vessel price has been reported, an eager market awaits, which should translate into strong grounds prices.
Here's footage from Cooke and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC) salon operation OBI Seafoods in Cordova, Alaska taking its first deliveries.
Monday, May 16, 4:25 pm PST
Copper River salmon is already nearing $1,000 per fish
Customers will have yet another year where it will be pricey to get their hands on some of the first Copper River salmon as companies await their first shipments from the Prince William Sound salmon season opener in Alaska.
High prices haven't stopped shoppers at Seattle's famous Pike Place Fish Market before and they certainly won't this year, despite inflation deflating consumer's wallets this spring.
Monday, May 16, 8:30 am PST
Ice impacting fish run?
Fishermen are reporting to IntraFish that icy river conditions could be impeding the flow of Copper River salmon to fishermen's nets despite the beautiful weather.
"The first two hours produced very little," Bill Webber, a longtime Cordova fishermen, told IntraFish. "I had two small kings and one sockeye."
Monday, May 16, 8:17 am PST
Let the games begin
Copper River salmon season has officially begun. Fishermen have set their nets, Peter Hoepfner, a longtime fisherman who provides product to Trident Seafoods from the fishery, told IntraFish.
"It's phenomenal weather," he said, with clear, sunny skies, and calm water for fishing.
Boats are still making their way into the water. The first day of fishing can always be a bit of a waiting game.
"Sometimes these first openers can be slim," he said. "I've had 2-5 reds (sockeye) in the past. If I get 15, I will be happy."
Friday, May 14, 10:00 am PST
Inflation be damned, buyers eager for Copper River salmon
Even with inflation driving up seafood prices, buyers seem intent on purchasing the first Copper River salmon -- even if it is costly.
"We are definitely planning on purchasing and having it available for our customer base," Matthew Davis, a seafood buyer with US distributor Shamrock Foods, told IntraFish. "There's a good amount of chatter from customers about it - so I think demand is definitely there."
The small Copper River fleet is made up of independent fishermen who operate small 32’ boats. The fishing opener is Monday.
Friday, May 14, 9:00 am PST
How much Alaska salmon was caught last year?
Well, there were some bumps during the season, but things ended on a much brighter note than in 2020.
The 2021 commercial salmon fishery all species harvest was valued at approximately $643.9 million (€618.7 million), a significant increase from 2020's value of $295.2 million (€283.7 million).
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) said a total of 233.8 million fish were harvested, a greater-than-98 percent increase from the 2020 total harvest of 116.8 million fish. Of this total, sockeye salmon accounted for approximately 56 percent of the total value at $361.4 million (€347.3 million) and 24 percent of the harvest at just under 57 million fish.
Pink salmon accounted for approximately 28 percent of the value at $178.8 million (€171.8 million), and 69 percent of the harvest with under 161.0 million fish.
For a dive deep into last year's season, you can take a read through our 2021 Alaska salmon blog to track every development.
- Trident looking to build 'next-generation' processing plant in Alaska
- With steady run of purchases, US government is now among top customers for Alaska pollock
- Russia lifts forecast for wild salmon harvest by 22%
- Millions of Alaska sockeye salmon could go unharvested this year if processing capacity issue is not resolved