The mighty Copper River is one of the swiftest and most rugged rivers in Alaska. Twisting and cutting deeply through the Wrangell and Chugach
mountains, it's 300 mile stretch of pristine glacier-fed waters are riddled by hundreds of rapids.
Every May, around the 15th, the first salmon of the season return
to the rivers and streams of Alaska with the Copper River being one of the first. King, Sockeye, and Silver salmon embark on their long journeys up the 'Copper to spawn and lay
their eggs. As salmon start their journey up the river and prepare to spawn, their feeding habits diminish. Because the Copper
River is so swift, they must store extra fat and oils in order to survive the long trip. This high fat and oil content is why Copper River salmon are
recognized as some of the world's best-eating salmon.
Copper River salmon are bright silvery salmon with a bright red flesh, a firm texture, and a rich flavor that makes them a very delicious dining
experience whose popularity is rapidly growing.
Hundreds of fishermen try their luck, flooding the local Alaskan fishing town of Cordova in a
"salmon rush" frenzy. The 500 some gill-netters fish the 35-mile wide Copper River Delta(mouth) where depth and sandbars change yearly. The rushing waters
of the Copper River empty steeply from the mountains above while breakers pound in from the ocean. Unpredictable weather and extreme tides make fishing the
"Flats" of the Copper River a dangerous endeavor. However, the prized catch has come to be world-renowned.
For fisherman, catching 100 sockeye in a set is okay, but 400 is
outstanding. There are tales of catches bearing as much as 700 fish! One of the reasons Copper River salmon are so highly prized is that the
fish are handled very carefully when caught, being bled and dressed immediately, put on ice and shipped out fresh.
The first fish are tendered and rushed back to Cordova where "salmon-thirty-salmons", as locals call them, fly directly to Anchorage and Seattle,
where they are distributed to high-end markets, restaurants, and connoisseurs around the world.
Each May, Pacific Northwest restaurants and markets celebrate the arrival
of the season's first fish. There are festivals, parades and community activities all centered around the first available Copper River salmon. As
newspapers fill with ads of fish for sale, "low flying fish" can be seen commonly at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle as locals buy whole
salmon and fillets for memorable outdoor barbecues and picnics.
When it comes to nutritional benefits, Copper River Salmon are a smart
choice for a healthy diet. The high oil content of Copper River salmon contains Omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce heart disease and lower
cholesterol. Studies have also found that fish oil can help combat ailments such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer, and
migraines. Furthermore, salmon is an excellent source of protein and essential amino acids.