Copper River salmon is high-priced treat in Lower 48

Posted: Friday, May 18, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Salmon whisked from the Copper River flats to Seattle was selling for anywhere from $12.99 to $19.99 at Seattle supermarkets hours after the fishery opened Thursday.

''We'll have that sold by the end of today,'' Ilga Westberg, spokeswoman for Thriftway stores, said Thursday.

Restaurants and grocery stores, particularly in Seattle, have turned the arrival of the first Copper River salmon, only hours removed from the water, into a media and culinary event.

The hype, though, doesn't seem to extend to Anchorage. Some local fishmongers have groused that while the Copper River reds are fine fish, they're no better than the ones arriving a few weeks later from Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay.

Jens Nannestad, chef and owner of Southside Bistro, said he'll wait to see the price before putting it on the menu.

''I'm just standing by, waiting to see what kind of rip-off this year will be,'' he said.

Fishermen and processors have priced Alaskans out of the market, he said.

''I'm not dogging the fish. If they do come in reasonably priced, I would love to have it. But 12 to 14 bucks a pound? For an Alaskan, I don't think that's kosher.''

Alaskans who decide to buy, no matter what the price, will have to wait until Saturday morning, when most local seafood retailers will have their first Copper River fish on ice.

Westberg, of the Thriftway stores, said her operatives shipped two kings and 250 reds south on an Alaska Airlines flight that left at 10 a.m. Thursday. The harvest opened at 7 a.m.

Westberg also said her store will open a ''Copper River Cafe'' in the grocery. They plan to push all the shopping carts outside and use that space to sell grilled salmon until the Copper River run is over. Some of the top chefs in Seattle will do the honors, she said.



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