Fishmongers Explore Alternatives to Costly Copper River Salmon

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These guys will soon be sharing their ice with spring salmon.
With the start of Copper River salmon season just weeks away, local fishmongers are again wondering whether customers will pay the price the vaunted King salmon is expected to fetch this year.

Jon Rowley, the seafood marketer who helped thrust Copper River salmon to national prominence, doesn't know what this year's Copper River catch will command, but recalled paying $50 a pound for the "first taste of the season" in 2010. Walter Compare of City Fish Co., who's adamant he'll have the city's first Copper River salmon, anticipates charging $40 a pound.

Both men remain devoted fans of the oily Copper River king salmon, but acknowledge the high price point means there's an opportunity for other salmons to win consumer approval. Compare thinks the Taku River King salmon, which travels 200 miles up a southeastern Alaska river, could make inroads with budget-minded epicures.

"It's a good salmon," Compare says. "It's a nice big King from a gill-net fishery. Real good, middle-of-the-road."

Compare should start selling the Taku River King in mid-May. Like many other local fishmongers, he'll also be carrying salmon from Oregon and California, two salmon fisheries which were closed last year. Although the California salmon tend to be "a little softer" because of warmer waters, he says the fish could also serve as an excellent consolation prize for customers who can't afford Copper River salmon.

Between the upper echelons of the salmon kingdom and the frozen farmed filets pawned off at supermarkets, "there's plenty of room for premium salmons," Compare says.

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