How to Catch Pink Salmon
Pink or "Humpy" Salmon
Pink salmon, also known as "humpies," are the smallest of the five Pacific salmon species. The nickname "humpy" comes from the prominent hump that develops on the salmon's back during spawning.
In Alaska, pink salmon run and spawn in large numbers every year, but further south, along the Oregon and Washington coast and up the rivers, pink salmon only run in large numbers every other year: odd years, to be exact. The last run in 2015 had a very strong showing. Unfortunately, the predictions have 2017 stacking up to be a reduced return, but there should still be millions of pink salmon available to catch.
Pink Salmon in my Kayak!
Every other summer throughout Western Washington, "Humpy Fever" sets in. This term refers to the large influx of fishermen in sporting stores across the state, hoping to gear up and become a part of the action. While Chinook and silver salmon has provides solid runs the last couple years, these fish arrive in much smaller numbers, and are more difficult to catch. In 2011, almost 6 million pink salmon were estimated to have crowded into Puget Sound and the surrounding river systems.
With such large numbers of salmon present, coupled with generous bag limits and fairly simple fishing techniques, both novice and veteran anglers are drawn from all over to fish for pink salmon. Admittedly, Pink salmon is not quite the delicacy that silver or ling salmon might be, but a tasty fish none-the-less, and an excellent choice for the smoker!
Additionally, with such simple gear and easy-to-boat fish, Pink salmon are an ideal fishery for kids, as they are almost guaranteed to catch Pink salmon.
What You'll Need
Catching pink salmon requires fairly basic and inexpensive gear. If you're already a veteran angler, you no doubt have everything you need sitting around.
- Rod: Medium Action, 6 to 12 lb rating would be ideal.
- Reel: If casting, a spinning real capable of holding 150 yards of 8 or 10 lb mono
- Reel: If trolling, a casting reel capable of holding 200 yards of 12 to 15 lb mono
- Line: see Above. Monofilament is suggested, as well as being much cheaper than a braid or fluorocarbon. P-Line CX would do great here.
- A Fishing License: Can be purchased at most sporting goods stores, or online.
As far as general tackle, that's all you need. I'll break up the next section of gear into trolling for pink salmon and casting for pink salmon.
Regulations and License Sales
Department of Wildlife
Casting for Pink Salmon
This is the route that many of the "Humpy Fever" anglers go. Pink salmon can be caught from fishing from the beach, pier, river bank, or even a boat. Here, rather than trolling, you will need to cast your lure out to the running salmon. In addition to rod, reel and line, all you need here is a lure. The options number in the hundreds if not thousands, but here are some proven winners:
- Small Pink Buzz Bombs
- Small Pink Spoons
- Small Pink Hoochie Jigs
- Small Pink Dick Nite Spoons (need additional weight to cast)
With the Buzz Bombs or Jigs, a erratic retrieval will be most successful. With Spoons, a steady retrieval will be more successful. For more information on jigging with Buzz Bombs, read "How to Catch Fish with Buzz Bombs".
Trolling for Pink Salmon
If you have the luxury of a boat, or for that matter a kayak, trolling can be an effective way to cover a large amount of water. I'll cover the standard rig here.
What You'll Need:
- Downrigger, planer board, or weights to keep your bait down (read more here)
- A flasher. White is standard, silver is good too.
- Leader line, 12-lb test mono (fluorocarbon might give you a small edge).
- Rigged small pink hoochie squid (2" approx.)
- Shrimp scent
Tie the rigged pink hoochie on a short 12 to 18" leader behind the flasher. Make sure and smear the hoochie in scent. Shrimp is my favorite, but herring or any other ocean scent will do. Troll the rig shallow during the morning or evening, and deep during midday. For more information on how to troll using downriggers, weights, or planer boards, more information can be found here: Trolling: Gear, Tackle, and Tactics.
The simple small pink hoochie is standard, however numerous other options abound. Ace High Flies with tinsel added, hoochies with spinner blades, action disks etc, the options are limitless. The standard pink hoochie will do fine though, no need to buy one of everything.
An alternate option is trolling diving lures, like a small pink Kwikfish or Wigglewart. These will prove more effective during low light fishing conditions, when the fish are higher in the water column. Be careful to match trolling speed to the specific lure!
Other viable trolling options include small pink spoons or trolling small pink Buzz Bombs.
Trolling Speed: Slow!
Time: Early is best, but can be caught all day
Time of year: Watch catch reports, but July for the ocean, August for Puget Sound, and September for the rivers is a general rule.
You're All Set to Go Catch Pink Salmon!
That's all you need to go catch yourself a cooler full! Be sure to stock up on pink gear early as during the height of the season it becomes almost impossible to find some pink hoochies and jigs. As the season nears, check back for updates regarding the number of fish expected to return this summer, and well as any new exciting gear for this season. If you have any questions at all regarding catching pink salmon, feel free to ask, I have an answer!