Coho's Time to Shine
Underrated and overlooked, coho, or silver, salmon often takes a backseat to king salmon, which steals the spotlight when the coveted Copper River salmon harvest initiates Alaska's summer salmon fishery in mid-May. The coho harvest doesn't kick into high gear until July, and coho landings are spread fairly evenly throughout Alaska - no single coho run really stands out.
But supplies of king salmon will be tighter this season, and prices should be - and already are in the case of Copper River fish - higher as a result. Alaska fishermen are forecasted to catch about as many kings as they did last year. But the Washington fishery is limited this season, and the California and Oregon fisheries are completely off-limits due to the collapse of the Sacramento River chinook population.
Only a handful of consumers can afford to dish out $20 or $30 a pound, or more, for king salmon. Now is an ideal opportunity for retailers and foodservice operators across the Lower 48 to introduced consumers to other species of Pacific salmon, especially coho. Coho's relatively moderate size, high fat content and exceptional color retention make it a desirable fish.
"We'll see [seafood buyers] working more species of Pacific salmon into their product mix this season," says one Alaska seafood official. "They'll be looking at cohos. They'll be looking at ketas (chums)."
Point in case: The Oceanaire Seafood Room.
"Last August, we ran an Alaska coho promotion, and coho is [a species] that not many of our chefs had a lot of experience with. A lot of them questioned why we were doing it, because kings and sockeyes are the bigger story," says Wade Wiestling, VP of culinary development for Minneapolis-based Oceanaire, which operates 15 upscale casual seafood restaurants nationwide. "But we got tremendous play out of it. It got a lot of press. It turned out to be a fantastic promotion for us, and we're looking forward to doing it again [this August]."
And there should be plenty of coho to go around. Alaska's coho harvest is projected to yield 4.4 million fish in 2008, up from 3.7 million fish last year. Coho is, in fact, the backbone of Alaska's salmon troll fishery. Don't miss this opportunity to feature it on your menu or in your case.
Check out the Top Story of our July issue for an in-depth look at king salmon and other species of Pacific salmon.