Tag Archives: Copper River

Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecasts fair to poor sockeye runs for Cook Inlet, Copper River

State biologists are projecting a mixed bag of returns this spring and summer for Southcentral’s popular sockeye salmon fisheries. Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials on Feb. 7 issued a forecast estimating that just less than 5 million sockeye will return to upper Cook Inlet river systems, allowing for a harvest of nearly 3 million sockeye from the region overall. It’s expected approximately 2.9 million fish from the total run will be headed to the Kenai, with another 941,000 pegged for the nearby Kasilof. >click to read< 19:19

Seine season brings ‘bright light’ to struggling fleet

In a year when the fishery was shut down for 16 days, inflicting economic pain on gillnetters, the seine season proved a bright light overall for commercial salmon harvesters, “Many of us were nervous after the 2019 drought and uncertainties with what that meant for returns in 2021,” “It’s heartbreaking to see our community continue to struggle, to know it’s impacting families, our city’s fish tax revenue, and ultimately the city and school budget.” >click to read< 20:09

The big bust

The 2020 decline in North Pacific salmon numbers appears to have been the greatest in recorded history, according to a trio of scientists who’ve spent much of their careers studying the secret lives of salmon in the ocean. They suggested to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), an international monitoring group, that the crash was likely driven by warmer ocean waters and an explosion of pink salmon in 2018 and 2019.,, “Unexpectedly, the high abundance of Pacific salmon came to an abrupt end in 2020. Preliminary commercial catch statistics for all salmon species indicate Pacific salmon harvests, which provide an index of abundance, declined more in 2020 than in any other period on record since 1930. >click to read< 11:01

Copper River set for 24-hour opener on June 28

Commercial fishing on the Copper River begins an eighth opener on Monday, June 28, for a 24-hour drift gillnet fishery. The announcement on Saturday, June 26, from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Cordova office,,, All the Monday openers begin at 8 a.m.,, Preliminary harvest estimates for Prince William Sound, including the Copper River, as of Saturday, June 26, included 7,548 Chinook, 333,667 sockeye, 489 coho, 588,533 chum and 2,166 pink salmon. >click to read< 08:40

“We’ve been sitting on the beach for 16 days” – Copper River salmon fishery reopens

“We are back to getting into the goal range,” said Jeremy Botz, finfish area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Cordova. “I think we are seeing a late compressed run. I still feel it is a relatively small run, but higher than in 2018 and 2020.”,, While eager to be fishing again, veteran Cordova harvesters felt they should have been allowed out on the grounds earlier to get a better handle on what the run, albeit late and maybe compressed, was really stacking up to be.,, Cordova harvester John Renner said the fleet should have been used earlier to collect data, to see if the run was weak or strong, rather than just waiting for the sonar count. “We’ve been sitting on the beach for 16 days,” >click to read< 14:15

Copper River District: As stocks decline, veteran harvesters want more answers, better enforcement of regulations

The harvest for the three openers to date totaled an estimated 60,127 fish, including 5,259 Chinook, 52,752 sockeye and 2,116 chum. All this comes as little surprise to veteran fishermen like Bill Webber, now in his 54th year as a commercial harvester. Why the run of the oil rich Copper River sockeyes and Chinooks has been so troubled in recent years has prompted a lot of speculation. The situation has a lot of fishermen in the Cordova area pondering what possible role Northern Edge military exercises in the Gulf of Alaska, climate change and other fishermen upriver, particularly near spawning grounds, are playing. >click to read< 10:55

Copper River closed again amid low counts

This year’s Copper River sockeye run is starting out a lot like last year’s, which is bad news for most everyone, except for maybe the fish that are showing up. Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers closed the famed early season drift gillnet fishery for a second consecutive opener May 31 due to poor sockeye counts at the department’s Miles Lake sonar upriver from the fishery. Just 54,154 sockeye had been counted at Miles Lake through May 31, compared to the approximately 132,000 fish needed by that date to meet the department’s,, >click to read< 08:58

Copper River wild salmon fishery off to a slow start

Drift gillnetters out on the first Copper River opener of the 2021 wild salmon fishery harvested an estimated 1,957 Chinook, 8,197 sockeye and 173 chum salmon, and within 24 hours much of the catch was delivered to Seattle via Alaska Airline’s “Salmon-Thirty-Salmon” jet. Airline officials said the first flight brought in 17,000 pounds of wild Alaska king and red salmon headed for markets in Seattle, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. When the jet, painted to look like a gigantic king salmon, arrived at SeaTac, Alaska Airlines Captain Tim deal, with First Officer Bill Jacobson, held up a sample of the catch, a 37-pound Chinook salmon. >click to read< 13:05

The world’s finest salmon season is now under way

Today officially inaugurates Alaska’s summer salmon season with the opening of the first Copper River salmon fishing period of the 2021 season. Beginning at 7 am, the Copper River fishing fleet, comprised of 540 small-boat, independent commercial fishing permit holders will have the opportunity to harvest highly-prized Copper River king and sockeye salmon during a short 12-hour window. Today’s catch will be delivered to Cordova’s shore-based seafood processors and flown fresh to companies and individuals across the country who have reserved exclusive rights to the season’s first fish.  >click to read< 21:19

Alaska and B.C.’s salmon runs expected to be worst ever recorded

Salmon returns on the west coast look bleak this year. Alaska’s salmon returns have been so poor that some communities already are claiming fishery disasters. The socket salmon run on B.C.’s Fraser River is expected to be the worst ever recorded,, in Alaska, the Cordova City Council passed a resolution last week, asking the state to declare disasters for both the 2018 Copper River sockeye and chinook salmon runs and the 2020 sockeye, chum and chinook runs at the Copper River and Prince William Sound,, The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) says this year may turn out to be the worst for sockeye salmon in the Fraser River since tracking began in 1893, >click to read< 12:56

Salmon harvest coming in below forecast

Commercial harvests of Alaska’s iconic salmon are generally below expectation so far this season, particularly in the Copper River, where the preliminary catch to date includes 81,228 reds, 5,815 Chinooks and 1,296 chums. And overall for the drift gillnet harvesters and purse seiners in Prince William Sound, so far it is a smaller run that forecast, with a preliminary collective harvest of some 736,453 fish. That’s according to statewide data compiled by biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who update their preliminary harvest report daily and post. >click to read< 09:42

Copper River fishermen gain another harvest

Commercial harvesters keen on those Copper River salmon got a fifth shot at those prized Chinooks and reds on Thursday, June 18, in a 12-hour opener announced by Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials in Cordova. Waters within the expanded Chinook salmon inside closure area were closed for the period. It has been, in no uncertain terms a real slow start, with several of those openers already cancelled because of a very slow run. Through Tuesday, June 16, a total of 1,665 deliveries to processors from four 12-hour openers in the Copper River had brought in some 5,751 kings, 71,370 sockeyes and 1,056 chums, a total of 78,177 fish. >click to read< 16:01

It aint looking good – Low prices, weak run hammer Copper River fishermen

Fishermen headed into the 2020 season knew it would be different, but in the weeks since the Copper River District opened on March 14, low prices and a weak run has dealt a one-two punch to fishermen. “The 2020 gillnet season for the Copper River and Prince William Sound is definitely the worst one I’ve experienced so far,” Mike Mickelson, a Cordova based fisherman, said. “The managers just have us closed for the Copper River fishery because they’re worried about getting escapement, >click to read< 10:33

After cancellation of the third Copper River period, ADF&G okayed a 12-hour opener on Memorial Day

Light winds, fog and rain spread over Prince William Sound as veteran harvester Bill Webber headed out to sea on the eve of the Memorial Day opener for the famed Copper River wild salmon fishery, hoping perhaps that the third time’s the charm. The third time, that is, because the first opener on May 14, and the second opener on May 18 proved so below the forecast that Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists halted the anticipated third opener on May 21, then decided on May 22 to go ahead with a third 12-hour opener on Monday, May 25. “The wind isn’t bad, maybe 15 miles an hour, a little foggy, a little rainy,” said Webber, owner of direct-to-consumer Paradigm Seafoods, from the helm of his boat, >click to read< 10:57

Still slow going for Copper River opener, remains closed at least through Monday, May 25

Opening harvests of the 2020 Copper River commercial fishery, complicated by effort to keep the COVID-19 pandemic at bay, got off to a slow start for the first two 12-hour openers. The overall catch of Chinook and sockeye salmon came in way below forecast. The first two 12-hour periods brought processors an estimated 6,025 sockeyes and 3,255 king salmon, Copper River commercial fishery biologists said. The 372 deliveries from the first opener on May 14 included just 1,473 sockeyes and 1,552 Chinooks. Then on May 18, there were 412 deliveries, with 4,552 sockeyes and 1,703 Chinooks. The projected harvest for the second period alone had included 28,590 reds. >click to read< 16:16

Slow going for the Copper River opener

A 12-hour opener marking the start of the 2020 Copper River commercial salmon season proved slow going, with a catch of 1,650 Chinook and 1,500 sockeye salmon, down from 2,300 kings and 20,400 reds in the 2019 opener. Prices for the catch were also down, due to lack of demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, with upscale restaurants that normally feature Copper River entrees following the start of the fishery still closed. Even with fewer fishermen on the grounds, it was tough going. One veteran harvester said his 12-hour effort produced a total of five fish. Worries over a potential low price for the prized fish, coupled with concerns that the novel coronavirus pandemic might stop the fishery lowered the competition for the fish, said Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin, who calculated that as much of one fourth of the fleet never left the harbor. >click to read< 08:34

With coronavirus pandemic procedures in place, Copper River salmon season ready to open

Hundreds of vessels and workers flood into Prince William Sound each May for a chance to harvest the first fresh wild king salmon of the year, followed by the famous Copper River sockeye and the broader Prince William Sound pink salmon fisheries. However, with limited road access and health care facilities, city and state officials have been coordinating with the fleet and stakeholders about how to safely allow in deckhands, captains, and processing workers from Outside without inviting the pandemic to Cordova as well. “Fishermen are very concerned and have been concerned since day one,” said Francis Leach, the executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska. “Now that procedures have been put in place, there are a lot of questions. It’s always a learning curve. Folks are really going to have to pay attention to (the mandate).” >click to read< 14:36

Humpy run into Price William Sound forecast is above average

Forecasts for the 2020 fishing season show a robust run of pink and chum salmon into Price William Sound, along with a healthy run of kings and below average return of wild and hatchery salmon to the Copper River. The area forecast released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Tuesday, Jan. 28, also put wild sockeye returns to Coghill Lake at slightly below average. >click to read< 09:20

Harvest numbers are mixed as season gets underway. Meanwhile, PWS wild salmon harvest tops 1.5M fish

Prince William Sound landings of wild Alaska salmon have been strong, as the fishery gets under way. Meanwhile sockeye production in Kodiak, Cook Inlet and Chignik is off to a slow start, fisheries economist Garrett Evridge says in his first harvest report of the season. “Year-to-date statewide harvest of sockeye is more than three times the prior year,” said Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group, >click to read<14:08

PWS wild salmon harvest tops 1.5M fish – As more areas of Prince William Sound opened for commercial fishing, preliminary data compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game put the catch at 1.5 million salmon through June 18, including some 813,942 fish caught in the Copper River. >click to read<

Copper River harvest hits 429,630 fish and rising

That sixth opener was the charm, “a very welcome relief for this fleet,” said drift gillnet harvester John Renner. “It appears to be a larger run than predicted,” said Renner, in a phone call from his Cordova home on Wednesday, June 5, in the wake of the 36-hour opener of the 2019 Copper River commercial salmon season, which ended at 7 p.m. the previous evening. “The fish are also large and healthy, indicating a larger component of older fish,” Renner said. “They are spread out across the flats offshore and onshore. “ >click to read<10:56

Copper River sockeye show up early, give optimism for fleet

Copper River fishermen are getting a nice change of pace from the last two years this season as the sockeye run is shaping up better than expected so far. As of June 2, approximately 240,234 sockeye salmon had passed the sonar at Miles Lake on the Copper River, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. That’s about 65,000 more fish than the cumulative management objective so far on the river, which is based on average past escapements. It’s definitely better than in 2017 and 2018, when slow and weak sockeye runs kept commercial fishermen at the docks as managers struggled to make escapements. On the same date in 2018, only 55,840 sockeye had passed the sonar. (click to read)14:39

The mysterious case of Alaska’s strange sockeye salmon returns this year

There’s something unusual going on with the sockeye salmon runs returning to Alaska this year. In some places — like Bristol Bay — the runs are strong. In others, like the Copper River or the Kenai River they’re unexpectedly weak. In some places, there are sockeye that are unusually small. In others, sockeye of a certain age appear to be missing entirely. It’s a mystery. In Southeast Alaska, one of the first Fish and Game staffers to notice an unusual trend was Iris Frank, a regional data coordinator and fisheries technician. Frank’s lab is on the first floor of Fish and Game’s Douglas Island office that looks like it hasn’t changed much in the 32 years since she got there. >click to read<18:06

Copper disaster

No sooner did the burst of sockeye salmon into the Copper River begin than it was over. With the famous salmon river in eastern Alaska again falling behind projected daily returns, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that a Thursday through Sunday opening of the popular personal-use dipnet fishery will likely be the year’s last. The weak sockeye run has now turned into a disaster for almost everyone. Cordova commercial fishermen off the mouth of the river caught only 26,000 of the highly valuable sockeye in three short openings in May before they were shutdown for the year. >click to read<20:33

Copper River crash will cost commercial fishermen millions

Copper River sockeye fishermen are facing historic low returns this year, prompting some commercial fisherman to target other species elsewhere in Prince William Sound, and leaving others waiting onshore in what is usually a profitable fishery to the tune of $15 million or more in ex-vessel value. Through mid-June, the commercial Copper River District drift gillnet fishery had landed just less than 26,000 sockeye salmon and a little more than 7,000 kings during three mid-May fishing periods. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had expected a harvest this summer of nearly 1 million sockeye in the district, and about 13,000 kings. As the harvest stands now, it’s the second-lowest in the past 50 years. >click to read<16:21

Unexpected bounty

Good news at last for salmon-loving Alaskans who’ve watched sockeye returns to the fabled Copper River spurt and falter this year. No, the Copper hasn’t witnessed the miraculous return of tens of thousands of overdue fish, but there are now indications that the disastrously weak run there might be limited to the wild, 26,000-square mile watershed near the Canadian border. An unexpected bounty of sockeye has shown up at Bear Lake on the Kenai Peninsula and the early return of sockeye to the Kenai’s Russian River looks to be tracking the 2017 return, albeit it a week late.,,, Commercial fishermen had harvested 125,000 Bear Lake sockeye through Thursday – about seven times as many as through the same date last year, according to Fish and Game. >click to read<12:34

Horrible timing

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was Wednesday lobbying Alaska residents to buy Chitina dipnet permits to fish the Copper River even as the troubled, 2018 return of sockeye salmon to that big, muddy drainage was fading so badly that Cordova commercial fishermen pleaded to have the dipnet fishery shut down. “As of today sonar counts are well below projected counts and remain below the minimum threshold of 360,000 sockeye salmon for spawning escapements,” the Cordova District Fishermen United said in a letter to state officials. “In light of the weak early run component, restrictive closures on commercial fishing openers, and no noticeable increase in counts at the sonar currently, it is in the best interest of our sockeye runs to close the Copper River personal use and sport fisheries.” >click to read<18:26

No commercial opener for Copper River salmon fishery

Faced with a sonar count that is the ninth lowest on record since 1978, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said the Copper River district of Prince William Sound would remain closed to commercial fishing. The midday announcement on June 6 assured that the district would open to subsistence fishing on June 7. Cumulative commercial harvest to date is the second lowest harvest in the last 50 years, ADF&G said in an announcement from its Cordova office. Harvesters were advised, however, that the commercial fishery might open on short notice, should indices of sockeye salmon abundance support such a fishery.  >click to read<11:12

Cordova disaster?

The Copper River commercial salmon fishery will remain closed on Monday, leaving about 550 gillnet fishermen in Cordova to sit in port and ponder what is increasingly looking like a disaster for what is pound-for-pound Alaska’s most valuable sockeye run. Favored fad-fish of high-scale restaurants, Copper sockeye had a reported price on their heads of $8.50 to$9.50 per pound when the season opened, and everything looked good-to-go despite a below-average, pre-season sockeye forecast. >click to read<09:53

“First fish is a celebration of the start of Alaska’s wild salmon season,” – 60° North Seafoods delivers first fish to Anchorage

While the first Copper River salmon hit markets and tables in Seattle on May 18, the first fish arrived in Anchorage on time for dinner on the day of the first opener, thanks to processing newcomer 60° North Seafoods. Out on the Copper River flats, F/V Genevieve Rose captain John Derek Wiese and deckhand Robert Silveira harvested the Chinooks and Reds, quickly offloading them to the waiting helicopter. A helicopter carrying a sling load of the fresh salmon from 60° North, Cordova’s new fisherman-owned seafood processing plant, arrived at the Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport in Cordova on May 17 while the opener was still in progress. The fish were loaded onto a Piper Navajo Chieftain and off to Anchorage. 19 photo’s, >click to read<15:27

Copper failure

The commercial fishing season for Copper River salmon – the most coveted of Alaska fish – is shaping up as a disaster for the isolated fishing community of Cordova. Prices paid to fishermen are now reported at $9.50 per pound for prime fish, but there just aren’t many fish to be had and most of them are small. “Absolutely unprecedented” is how Stormy Haught, the area research biologists for Alaska Department of Fish and Game described the situation Wednesday. Haught is well aware of the long, detailed history of Cooper River commercial fisheries because he’s been back through all the data looking for a parallel to this season that might indicate to fishery managers how they can expect the run to play out going forward. >click to read<08:18