First king caught in Ship Creek as commercial fishermen cash in
The first confirmed king salmon has been caught in Ship Creek, unofficially starting summer for many who live in the Anchorage area.
Meanwhile, king and sockeye salmon from the Copper River are commanding high prices across the Pacific Northwest, providing a helpful cash injection for commercial fishermen at the beginning of the season.
Dustin Slinker, owner of the Bait Shack on Ship Creek, filmed the man who caught the 19 pound king Thursday evening.
While nowhere near a record breaking fish, the king sparked interest online and on the shores of Ship Creek. Thousands watched the video posted on social media and anglers started appearing to try and land the second king of the season.
Erika Griffith saw the video on Facebook and came to try her luck.
“Reds are typically what I go for, but I figure you haven’t really fished a summer in Alaska until you’ve got at least one king,” Griffith said.
Slinker said that a king salmon has been landed in Ship Creek a few days earlier in the past few years. He attributes the relative lateness of the first catch this year down to the cold winter.
As for predicting the season ahead, Slinker says it’s tough, but he says since the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery came online, there have been more fish and more reliable returns.
The fishing season in Ship Creek isn’t expected to really kick off until Memorial Day, when there will be shoulder-to-shoulder combat fishing for the next monster king.
Across Alaska, the first batch of Copper River reds and kings are fetching high prices for commercial fishermen.
Art Nelson, Public Information Officer at Alaska Department of Fish and Game for commercial fisheries regions one and two, said commercial fishermen are taking around $13 a pound for a kings and $8.50 for sockeye from the Copper River.
Nelson says that once prices stabilize, commercial fishermen will start making much less, around $3 per pound for Copper River sockeye and $7 per pound for kings.
Even still, $3 a pound is over double the price other sockeye salmon can attract across the state.
Nelson says the high oil content is what commands the relatively high price of Copper River reds, and “great marketing” from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and other marketing groups.
For commercial fishermen, the high prices come at the perfect time.
“It’s really important early in the season, especially because you’ve got all these start-up costs," Nelson said. "A lot of times when your boat sits all winter you’ve got additional maintenance costs, there are nets you have got to purchase or repair.”