Rising out of the Copper Glacier and untouched wilderness of southcentral Alaska, the Copper River is one of the last untouched watersheds in the world. The Copper River is the birthplace of three wild Alaskan salmon species. These salmon live as adults in the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean eating small crustaceans and zooplankton. In late May, the Alaska Salmon season begins with the opening of the Sockeye and King runs at the Copper River. The season comes to an end in September with Coho Salmon. Every year Coho return to the Copper River to make the arduous 300-mile migration up the turbulent waters in order to spawn. Because the Copper River is so long and steep (gains an average elevation of 12 feet per mile), these fish must pack on sufficient fat reserves to fuel their epic journey–resulting in salmon that is rich in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids and flavorful oils. The fish’s distinct regional DNA and lifecycle yield the world’s finest salmon.
Wild Copper River Coho salmon are harvested by a small fleet of independent fishermen on one and two-man boats called bowpickers. This artisan craft has been handed down for generations. All Copper River salmon are caught by drift gillnets which extend 150 fathoms from the bow of the boat and hang vertically in the water.
Copper River Coho salmon are handled with extreme care on their journey from net to plate. From the moment they are individually hand-harvested out of the net by fishermen, they are bled. Bleeding the fish helps maintain the pure taste wild Alaskan salmon is known for. Immediately after the fish are bled they are chilled in fish holds. The most popular method of chilling is known as “slush icing” which is a mixture of flaked ice and sea water that allows the fish to float so as to reduce bruising. These fleet-wide standards ensure consistent quality throughout the season.
Coho Salmon have a mild flavor and delicate texture offer that is appealing to any palate. These large fish, sometimes called Silvers, are the last to return to the Copper and have become a fall favorite that pairs well when baked with seasonal root vegetables and mushrooms.