SEATTLE -- It used to be restaurants and grocery stores patiently waited for the arrival of Copper River salmon. Now they race up to Alaska to be the first pull it right off the fishing boats.

Alaska Airlines delivered a 40-pounder to organizers of the fourth annual Copper Chef Cook-Off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Friday. Celebrities and chefs were waiting in wee hours for their first taste of the delicacy.

Salmon in the morning for breakfast, pretty hard to beat, said former Seattle Mariner Jay Buhner who was licking his chops at the airport.

Over at Salty s Seafood Grill in West Seattle other celebrities gathered to gulp down what was billed as the first salmon off the boats in Cordova, Alaska.

John Keister and Pat Cashman of the locally produce The 206 show compared two Copper River species at Salty s; Sockeye and Chinook. Chinook took that contest.

Salty s owner Gerry Kingen was so into the race to be first, he planned to go out on a boat and catch his own. Bad weather forced him to miss that opportunity but he was there to claim the first salmon brought in by a commercial fisherman.

Buyers for grocery chains like Fred Meyer and QFC also had their buyers on the docks in Cordova.

Salty s will serve a lunch portion of Copper River Salmon for about $35. Most stores will sell it in the $30 per pound range. But as soon as the supply goes over the next few weeks the prices will begin to come down.

The plane carried 24,600 pounds of fish, and Alaska Airlines scheduled three more salmon flights Friday. The airline says it will ship more than 2 million pounds of salmon this year across its 95-city network.

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