Fortune Fish & Gourmet

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Salmon, Copper River

The Copper River is one of the longest and most rugged rivers in Alaska. Twisting and cutting deeply through the Wrangell and Chugach mountains, its 300 mile stretch of pristine glacier-fed waters are riddled by hundreds of rapids. Each Spring, Sockeye, King and Coho Salmon return along the 300 miles of mountainous glacier fed waters to spawn and lay their eggs. This is the most anticipated and celebrated wild Salmon run in the world and lasts from mid-May through mid-June. Because the journey is so long, they must store extra fat and oils in order to survive. The King and the Sockeye are the most popular. They differ in size and fat content. The King can weigh in at 15 pounds, while the Sockeye reaches 5-7 pounds. King Salmon, sometimes called Chinook, spend the longest time at sea before returning to spawn, and is generally considered the finest. Sockeye, also known as Red Salmon, is smaller and spends less time at sea. The high fat and oil content is why it is recognized as one of the world’s best eating Salmon. King salmon has red meat, but not as red as Sockeye whose flesh is bright red with a fine texture resembling beef. Both are firm in texture, with a rich flavor that makes them a very delicious dining experience. Copper River Salmon is caught by gillnet and carefully regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). Biologists count fish around the clock each season using sonar, ensuring that ADF&G has the best escapement information. Sonar counts are relayed daily to fishery managers in Cordova and they use this data to make fishery management decisions in real time.