Micah and his catch

Fishing the Copper River Delta

Million Dollar Bridge over the Copper River

The Million Dollar Bridge over the Copper River with Child’s Glacier in the background

The Copper River is the second largest river in the state of Alaska.  That’s saying something in a state where you can throw a rock in any direction and hit one.  It’s actually the 10th largest river in the United States (but I think that first statistic is more impressive.)  From it’s birth at the base of Mount Wrangell, this beast runs some 200 miles of Alaska’s toughest country at about 56,000 cfs (give or take) before it graces our doorstep at the Million Dollar Bridge, aka “the end of the road”.  You could say that if the mountains are the backbone of Cordova, the Copper River and her delta are its lifeblood.

And in Cordova, we love to fish!  As a whole, our community lives on and makes its living from the Salmon that run down & up this river.  There is some controversy in Cordova regarding the dipnet fishing method, an example of which is seen above.

Micah and his catch

Sport fishing in Cordova

But everyone loves getting a fish on-line.  At the height of the sport fishing season, anglers and fly-fishermen fill every bank of the streams, creeks, rivers, lakes & ponds of the Copper River Delta.  Sport fishermen can catch their fill of King, Silver & Red salmon during Cordova’s fruitful fishing season (although the limit is 3 per day).  Whether it’s frozen, smoked, or thrown right on the grill, a Cordovan summer catch always tastes great & often lasts all year long!

Fisher-women of Cordova

Cordova is filled with sport and commercial fisher-women as well!

And don’t forget Cordova’s commercial fishing industry.  You can’t step foot in this town without noticing it.  Over 300 residents hold commercial fishing permits, and nearly half of each household has worked in the industry.  Our ambition to live off these waters isn’t limited to salmon.  Since 1915, Cordova has been making a good name for itself in seafood, and thanks to the Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU), we’ve also managed to make a decent income.  We were known as the Razor Clam Capitol of the World until the the earthquake of 1964 wiped out the clamming industry.  But that didn’t stop us.  We fished those ocean waters.  Then the oil spill hit us hard exactly 25 years later, almost to the day.  And it has taken decades to recover, but Cordovans don’t give up!

Commerical Fishermen in Cordova2010 marked the best year of returns for local fishermen since the pre-oil spill days of 1988, and has remained steady.   Way to go, Cordova!  Just goes to show:  whether it’s caught by a seiner in the ocean or an angler on the Eyak, fishing is in our blood, and the Copper River Delta is the perfect place to do it!

For more information on the history of commercial fishing in Cordova, click here.


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