A helicopter carrying the season’s first catch of wild Copper River king salmon touched down right outside the King Salmon Restaurant at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge on Friday.

This special event helped kick off the 2015 Alaska season and guests from around the world.

The 2015 Copper River king salmon fishing season opened May 14 at 7 a.m. in Cordova, Alaska, and after a long day on the water fishermen could still be seen bringing in their catch late into the night.

Local processor Copper River Seafoods prepared its first shipment of fish to be flown on an Alaska Airlines jet to Anchorage, where it was loaded onboard an Era Aviation helicopter. The chopper flew to a helipad near the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, to deliver the fish to the restaurant for preparation by Chef Jeff Elliott.  

“Fresh, wild seafood remains one of the top draws for Princess guests visiting Alaska and salmon is an important part of the Alaska lifestyle, both culturally and as a dietary staple,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “The opening day of the Copper River salmon season is a very exciting time for our guests staying at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge who have the opportunity to participate in a true Alaska tradition.”  

A camera crew followed the fish from the moment nets pulled them up in Cordova and captured the full journey to Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, along with the salmon’s preparation at King Salmon Restaurant.

To view the video, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kICqLkuREtw.  

The first-catch shipment of Copper River salmon is a prestigious and highly anticipated annual ritual in which Alaska Airlines flies more than 20,000 pounds of the season’s “first fish” to Seattle and Anchorage. For the last three years, the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge has received part of the catch and served fresh king salmon to lodge guests on arrival.    

Copper River king salmon, identified by the meat’s deep red hue and a melt-in-your mouth texture, is a highly coveted fish by chefs and salmon lovers alike thanks to its exceptional flavor and high nutritious value. Also known as Chinook, the king salmon travel 300 miles from the Pacific Ocean along the waters of the Copper River to reach their spawning grounds near Cordova.