It’s June, and that means San Francisco Bay Area fish markets are celebrating the arrival of the famous Copper River king salmon. Continuing its annual tradition, Alaska Airlines delivered the first shipment, straight from Alaska’s Copper River to Sea Tac Airport, to great fanfare.
Chefs across the Pacific Northwest and the Bay Area are rolling out the red carpet as well. These enormous, silver fish have bright red, firm flesh, and a particularly rich flavor because of extra fat the fish store for the exhausting fight upriver to spawn. What makes this season extra special, is there are finally signs the king salmon is firmly on the comeback trail.
In 2017, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game predicted the worst run of kings in thirty-two years. Last year, things were better, but still disappointing. This year, the state has forecast a strong run of kings: 55,000 fish, which is about 20 percent above the 10-year average run of 46,000.
While things are looking up in terms of a healthy population, the price is still high: $60 a pound. It’s enough to make some customers do a double take. Are Copper River kings really worth that price?
Yes. That is the emphatic declaration from Forbes, which recently asked the same question. The feature describes kings as “glorious,” “a joy to eat and a pleasure to cook” and the “ultimate salmon eating experience.” It goes on to explain that the price is set based on simple supply and demand.
For customers experiencing sticker shock, steer them toward other, cheaper Alaska salmon varieties, like coho salmon and sockeyes. And remind them there are plenty of other fish in season that won’t strain their pocketbooks, including sardines, tuna, halibut, lobster, mackerel, Mahi Mahi and snow crab.