The picture of a thick, deep red salmon fillet probably has its origin in one phrase: wild Copper River salmon of Alaska. Copper River salmon is known in restaurants and markets worldwide as one of the most delectable and sought after seafood entrees. You can buy the freshest salmon right here!
Understanding that phenomenon begins in becoming familiar with the river itself.
The Copper River runs nearly 300 miles out of the Alaskan Wrangell Mountains to Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska. The river’s watershed drains 24,000 square miles and is the tenth largest river in the world based on its average flow into the sea at its mouth. It is a wild river, with many intense rapids and gorges.
There are several reasons behind the Copper River phenomenon. The first is that the King, or Chinook, salmon spawning run into the Copper is generally the first salmon commercially harvested in Alaska each year. Their run lasts only about three or four weeks from mid-May to mid-June. Sockeye, or red, salmon also begin in mid-May but run through August and Coho, or silver, salmon finish up the major Copper runs from mid-August to mid-September. In total, over two million salmon spawn in the Copper River each year, so the bounty for commercial wild Alaska salmon is bountiful.
Another defining characteristic of Copper River salmon is that it is known as one of the best tasting and most nutritious salmon in the world. Imagine…Copper River salmon must travel nearly 300 miles from the ocean up an intense river to reach their native spawning grounds. Because they do not feed once they leave salt water, they must be extremely strong and have a plentiful supply of body fat to complete the journey. The lean muscle leads to a firm fillet texture, while the body fat leads to a large amount of natural, healthy oils and Omega-3 fatty acids.
These qualities make Copper River salmon some of the richest and delicious fish in the world!
The Copper River salmon spawning runs themselves are known worldwide for their overall health. This is a result of management practices by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. More salmon could be allowed to be caught each year, but the department seeks balance between strong harvests each year with a sustainable yield for future years.
The department actually uses fish wheels and sonar counters to determine the salmon activity in the river. Installing the equipment at several points along the river gives managers the ability to count the number of salmon migrating up the river. Once a set amount of salmon reaches their spawning grounds, the commercial fishing season is opened for a limited amount of time. Fishermen typically use gillnetting, a popular method in Alaska, to catch the salmon, which involves trolling a net through the water to catch the fish.
Finally, Copper River salmon are known to have low levels of contaminants, such as PCBs and mercury, which can accumulate in other fish.
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