The Copper River commercial fishery in Cordova, Alaska, has had three 12-hour fishing openers. Between weather, ice upriver, and cold water temperatures, catches have been a bit on the skinny side — as the high price per pound has reflected.

Those are the reasons so far, as opposed to chalking it up to a poor run like last year. Having said that, the 2021 predictions are not stellar.

The cumulative sonar count of fish up the Copper River through May 24 was 4,813 fish versus a projected 39,911 salmon.

The May 24 12-hour opener brought in 2,000 kings and 32,700 sockeye salmon compared with an anticipated harvest of 56,100. Though the kings were few and far between, they are such bright, beautiful fish. Kings are bright silver with black spots and the reds are silver with an iridescent blue green back.

The Copper River was closed to commercial fishing on Thursday, May 27. That meant, unfortunately, no fresh fish for the Memorial Day weekend markets. Big tides, too. Wednesday morning’s low water was the biggest anyone has seen in a long time, with a 4-foot minus. Low water is the best time to scrap up a few fish.

Typically, there are two sonars deployed upriver to count fish as they go by. This is one of the most effective ways to count fish on the Copper River because is so muddy that it is difficult to track fish swimming up by sight. However, because of shore ice and ice floes, only the north bank sonar is in use so far this season.

The Prince William Sound Science Center’s Lower Copper River Sonar Station is deployed and operational on the lower east side of the Copper River. If you want to follow the run count, passage summaries can be viewed online.

The next announcement should come soon. Fingers crossed!

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