Copper River salmon makes its annual grand arrival into Seattle

The first Cooper River Salmon is here! (Photo: KOMO News)

SEA-TAC AIRPORT, Wash. -- It's an annual May tradition around here - the season's inaugural shipment of Copper River Salmon from Alaska.

The first shipment of 22,000 pounds arrived Friday morning on an Alaska Airlines 737 from Cordova, Alaska, marking the start of the summer salmon grilling season. Three more shipments will arrive Friday, bringing about 77,000 pounds to Anchorage and the rest of the United States.

Alaska Air First Officer Melissa VanDyke carried the first salmon out onto the tarmac to the waiting crowd.

"Our Cargo employees are working around the clock to ensure we deliver the first catch of the coveted wild Copper River salmon to market, often within 24 hours of being pulled from the water," Jason Berry, Alaska Air Cargo managing director, said in a statement announcing the delivery.

And as also become a recent tradition, the first fish to arrive will be the subject of an annual "Copper Chef Cook-off" right there at the airport. Three top Seattle chefs will battle "Iron Chef" style, making 3 dishes in 30 minutes to decide whose salmon dish reigns supreme (recipes available here). This year's not-so-secret ingredient is a 45-pound king salmon. The chefs competing this year includes Executive Chef John Sundstrom of Lark, Executive Chef Stuart Lane of Spinasse and Artusi and Executive Chef David Yeo of Wild Ginger.

The arrival of fresh Copper River king and sockeye salmon is a rite of spring in Seattle where the fish are prized for their flavor. They typically bring the highest prices at restaurants and fish markets. Copper River salmon should be hitting area stores and restaurants very soon. In years' past, the fish has been available to the public in some stores and restaurants the same day.

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