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Copper River salmon like Columbia springers, only more expensive

SALMON FISHING -- Copper River salmon are making their annual splash in restaurants around the region, bringing in staggering prices of $30 a pound in West Side markets.

Experts I've contacts say it's basically a successful marketing strategy.

"A Copper River chinook salmon is not different than a Columbia River spring chinook salmon," said Tony Floor, a retired Washington Fish and Wildlife Department salmon program manager who works for the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

What the marketing seems to have done, is assure that only the best quality spring chinook --bright and properly iced and transported --  get the Copper River label. The gillnetted fish that sit in a plastic garbage can down by The Dalles wouldn't make the grade.

But Floor helps sport anglers justify buying the boat and outboard to catch their own rather than taking out a loan for whole Copper River salmon.

All spring chinook, he said, "by form of genetics, leave the saltwater and enter the freshwater of their destination at this time of year.

"Spring chinook, by design, make this annual pilgrimage as they historically have the greatest distance to travel. For Columbia River spring chinook, this means for thousands of years, they enter the river now, bound for upriver destinations such as the Okanogan and the Snake River along with its upriver tributaries.

"Once arriving to these upriver destinations, living off the rich oils in the fat within their flesh, they spawn in the early fall, earlier than the abundant fall chinook.

"Spring chinook from the Columbia River are the same oil-rich fish as the Copper River chinook but you’ll pay about half the price at a restaurant or your local fish market."

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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