So what was the wealthiest area in US?

How did a salmon-fishing area in southwestern Alaska get the highest per capita income in the nation?

That question is asked a lot these days - in Juneau, as well as in Washington. According to the US Census Bureau, the 1,094 residents of Bristol Bay, Alaska, had the nation's highest per capita income in 1979: $14,948.

''That was a banner season for fishing,'' says Chuck Kleeschulte, press secretary for Gov. Jay Hammond. Since then, the area has been hit by lean times. Salmon prices collapsed in 1981, ''so the per capita income this year probably is drastically lower.'' Mr. Kleeschulte says most of the residents are ''subsistence fishermen, who pour most of their money back into their boats and equipment.''

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