SEATTLE - The first shipment of the coveted Copper River salmon arrived at Sea-Tac Airport Friday morning.
As is tradition, Alaska Airlines pilots carried the 48-pound king salmon down a red carpet and then posed with the fish while photos were taken.
Amid the fanfare, the salmon was then handed off to three celebrity chefs for a ceremonial cook-off at the airport.
The arrival is one of the rites of spring in the Pacific Northwest. Friday’s shipment from Cordova contained about 24,000 pounds of salmon that were caught Thursday when the commercial gillnet season opened in Prince William Sound.
The salmon is exalted for its high fat content from having to muscle its way up the strong Copper River.
It's headed for restaurants and grocery stores and will be available at some locations as early as Friday afternoon.
Price, of course, varies on where where it's purchased, whether its king or sockeye, and whether you're buying a whole fish or a filet. But generally, prices range from $28 to $45 a pound.
Paula Cassidy, from Wild Salmon Seafood Market at Fisherman's Terminal, is asked all the time if the fish is worth the money.
"You know, it really is remarkable fish," said Cassidy.
Along with high oil content that gives it a richer flavor, the Copper River salmon is the first big run of the season for wild Alaskan salmon -- another reason it's so expensive.
But it's not the only wild salmon on the market now. At the Wild Salmon Seafood Market, you can buy another Alaskan salmon or two different Washington-caught salmon for nearly half the price.
On Friday, Cassidy is cooking some up in her store for customers to taste the difference. Cassidy said the Copper River salmon is almost always the customer's favorite.
It all comes down to preference, and you have to decide whether you can stomach paying the price for Copper River.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates the seasonal harvest at 1.6 million Copper River sockeyes, 22,000 kings and 280,000 pinks.