OLYMPIA, Wash. — Bayview Thriftway here has made a big thing of fresh, trolled Alaska king salmon with a special that kicked off earlier this month.
With the help of trendy new chalkboard signs and a retail price that Bayview vowed to keep under $20 a pound, the retailer expects sales to be excellent.
“We've had some good weather recently, too, and people are firing up their grills,” said Nick Stamos, seafood manager at Bayview Thriftway.
Pacific Northwest retailers in the last three years have gradually become disenchanted with the hoopla that has surrounded the opening of the Copper River season for Alaska king and sockeye salmon, sources told SN. In particular, Copper River king has gotten so much attention in the media that demand has caused prices to skyrocket.
“It was hard to make any money on the first of Copper River king last year; some stores just about broke even,” another retailer told SN earlier this year.
Bayview's Stamos agreed. “I think what happened over the last three years is that there was more demand from the country as a whole, for that particular run, and for salmon in general. The price kept going up, and people just aren't willing to pay $25 to $35 a pound. Here on the West Coast, anyway, they know they're eventually going to get wild salmon. They don't have to have the first of the season. They can sit back and wait a while.”
Troll-caught, or line-caught salmon has a season that's technically open year-round, except for about a month from mid-September to mid-October.
The fresh, troll-caught Alaskan king came in at a good price this month, Stamos told SN.
“The under-$20-a-pound for fillets is a special. We'll be making a profit,” Stamos said. “And these are really nice fish. They haven't started their spawning run yet, so there's a lot of fat on them. We steak and fillet them here at the store. We've never had much success with whole-fish sales. Our customers tend to buy what they're going to use and that's it. They're not looking to stockpile 20 or 30 pounds of fish in their freezers.”
While demand put fishermen behind over the last few years, creating a shortage and driving prices higher, Alaska's fish and game commission makes sure the supply is sustained by checking rivers for mature fish in April and May, and controlling when the rivers are open for fishing.
“Stikene River should have opened the last of April, but it didn't,” Stamos said. “Taku River may not either.”