I recently had the opportunity to travel to Alaska with my friends at Copper River Salmon. The destination? Cordova, a quaint fishing town with a population of 2500 (on a good day). It’s a little slice of heaven on earth.
After a long trip out west from New Jersey (I flew from Seattle to Anchorage to Cordova, a total of roughly 10½ hours), we ended up at the tiniest little airport. It was then that I realized I was in for a treat. Never in my life have I been anywhere so quaint and small. Being an intimate part of such a small, but connected community means that everybody knows everybody.
We stayed at the charming Orca Adventure Lodge, with stunning views of the Orca Inlet and the surrounding landscape. One of the highlights of this trip was being able to see an abundance of wildlife in their natural habitat. While staying at the lodge. we saw bears, bald eagles, sea otters (literally dozens at a time!), jellyfish, starfish, and of course, had easy viewing access of salmon swimming nearby at all times.
A Thriving Community of Fisherman
A few quick facts about Cordova, which I found fascinating:
- The only way in or out is by plane or ferry. There are no roads connecting Cordova to other parts of Alaska. Eventually, all the roads simply end.
- Life in Cordova revolves around salmon. The community is committed to preservation of wild salmon, and every single family has a connection to seafood in one way or another. The fish are caught by small, independent fishermen with 1- or 2-person boats.
- The Copper River Delta is 300 miles long, which means that some of the salmon traveling south from the northernmost tip have an extremely long and arduous journey down to the Gulf of Alaska. Salmon are born in the Delta, swim south to saltwater to live out their life, then return back upstream — to the specific place they were born, no less! — to spawn and then die. Check out the map below!
- There are 5 wild spices of salmon in Alaska: king, sockeye, coho, keta, and pink salmon. We’ll discuss the difference below.
It’s worth nothing that you absolutely must have a passion for this lifestyle in order to sustain it. During season, which runs from May to September, it’s a full-time commitment.
Health Benefits of Salmon
Salmon is one of the most nutrient-beneficial, healthy foods you can eat — plus, it tastes amazing! Regardless of the species, it’s widely accepted that incorporating salmon regularly into your diet can give you a boost of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamins B12 and D.
My family eats salmon regularly (it’s one of the few proteins all five of us can agree on, happily!).
While all five species are found in Alaska (excluding Atlantic salmon), the most popular by far are King (also called Chinook), Sockeye, and Coho salmon. If you’re interested, check out our overview of the different species of salmon!
Where Can I Buy Copper River Salmon
Now that you know all the benefits of enjoying wild, sustainably sourced Alaskan Copper River Salmon, where can you buy it?
There’s a handy fish finder tool on the Copper River Salmon website that can help you find Alaskan salmon locally. You can also ask fish mongers at the grocery store if they carry or can get wild Alaskan salmon. I’ve seen it at Whole Foods, King’s Food Market, Balducci’s, Wegmans, Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Stew Leonard’s.
Alternatively, if you’d like to buy directly from a local fisherman, I can proudly recommend David, whom we met on our trip. You can buy fresh, frozen, jarred, sushi-grade, even salmon jerky! His contact info is on his website, and you can call, text, or email him directly.
Know that every time you purchase wild Copper River Salmon you are directly supporting the fisherman, their families, and the vast effort they’ve devoted their lives to in order to keep salmon sustainable in the region.
Fresh vs. Frozen Salmon
While you may consider fresh salmon to be the highest quality of all, that’s really only true if it’s fresh off the boat where it was caught or has made its way to you very quickly (like, within a day!). The fish begins to lose its freshness immediately, so it’s best to consume it very quickly.
If you’re unable to get fresh caught fish or won’t be enjoying it within 1 day of buying, your best bet is to buy flash frozen fish.
Canned salmon is also a great option for enjoying salmon any time of year, regardless of the season!
Alaskan Seafood Is More Than Just Salmon!
There is such an abundance of seafood in Alaska! Of course the highlight of this trip was the local fresh salmon, but we were lucky enough to have Alaskan halibut a few times and wow wow wow. So delicious!
Other seafood local to the area includes: crab, scallops, shrimp, cod, rockfish.
Our Favorite Salmon Recipes
If there’s one thing we’re never short on, it’s salmon recipes! Here are a few of our all-time favorites:
We have over 50 salmon recipes on the website, so there’s a little something for everyone. Check out all of our easy seafood recipes for more dinner inspiration!
A huge, heartfelt thank you to the wonderful people of Cordova, Alaska — specifically JJ and Christa at Copper River Salmon (and Christa’s wonderful husband, Tony!) — for opening my eyes to the world of salmon. It’s comical how little I knew before arriving in Cordova.
I think it’s so important for us to understand where our food comes from, and to do our very best to ensure that we’re sourcing sustainably whenever possible.
I hope you get the opportunity to explore this vast, beautiful region, rich in natural beauty and, of course, some of the very best seafood on the planet.