Ready, Set… Fish!

Tomorrow is big…. real big! Since Cordova is a fishing town (that’s putting it lightly), you’d probably guess that the beginning of the fishing season is pretty important.  But did you know that Cordova also has the earliest wild Alaskan salmon commercial opener?  That’s right — every fresh-fish-craving, blue-blooded American (and some foreigners, too) are going to fight over tomorrow’s catch.  And this isn’t just any salmon, either.  This is Copper River Salmon, world-renown for its superior quality, taste & sustainability.  By Friday, the first Copper River Salmon of the year will be flown to Seattle with pomp and fanfare on Alaska Airlines Cargo, to chefs waiting on the tarmack.  In an Iron Chef – style flash of grandeur, these pros will compete to make the tastiest dish of the day with this magical ingredient for a chance to win a trip to Cordova (and some sweet bragging rights).  In fact, there are Copper River Salmon Cook-off events like this going on all over Seattle and as far south as Dallas, Texas!


Cordova fisherman, Micah Ess, heading out for the first opener of the Copper River Salmon Season, 2013. Photo by Michelle Dockins.

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How to speak Cordovan

Here in Cordova, we kind of have a language all our own. Every day, I learn new expressions and  colloqualisms. Recently, I came across this prime example and couldn’t pass it up:

“We went out in my bowpicker to try and catch some humpie and we were really in em on the opener on the flats but we got corked so we just went back and went out the road. Guess we won’t be highliners this season.”

Calm waters in Cordova

There are several interesting Cordova vocab words and phrases in here.

For example…

  • Bowpicker – A bowpicker is a fishing boat used on the Copper River and Prince William Sound for the salmon gillnet fishery, called such because the net is dragged in over the bow, at which place fish are “picked” from it.
  • Humpie – Another name for pink salmon, called such because they develop a large hump near the head while spawning. Humpies, although not thought of as such a delicacy for dinner, are often a very valuable salmon catch because of their plenitude and the abundance of buyers. Continue reading
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.

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