Every other year, a salmon returns to Puget Sound that is easy enough to catch that even the least experienced angler will be able to put fish in the bucket. Pink Salmon fishing in Puget Sound is fun and easy. This article will go over pretty much everything you need to know about hooking Humpies in the Sound.
Basics of pink salmon
Pink salmon is the smallest of the Puget Sound salmon species, spending only two years in the ocean before returning to the are rivers to spawn. Unlike other salmon species, pink salmon spawn relatively low in rivers, which has been attributed to why they have been impacted less by human development.
Because they spend exactly two years in the ocean before returning to spawn, you will only find pink salmon on odd-numbered years in August and September. Areas to the north of Puget Sound get pinks back every year, but at some point in history, something happened to wipe out our even yeared runs.
Pink salmon will come into Puget Sound to stage to go upriver and spawn. As they head into the rivers, they develop a distinctive hump, which is the reason they are nicknamed ‘Humpies’.
As salmon go, Humpies are relatively small usually in the 3.5 to 5-pound range and coming in at about 20″ in length. This makes them a fun fish to catch on trout gear.
What time of day to fish for humpies
When it comes to salmon fishing, the general rule of thumb is if you can see your bait, it is probably too bright out. This, of course, means that the salmon prefer to feed in the early morning hours.
Pink salmon are not much different in that regard. The early morning hours are generally the most productive. Typically salmon will start shallow in the early hours and move deeper the brighter it gets.
My experience with this is that it should be used as a guideline instead of a hard and fast rule. I’ve cast at schools of pink salmon cruising the surface, their dorsal fins cutting through the water like porpoises in the middle of the day before.
Pink salmon fishing gear
Because pink salmon don’t get as big as Coho or Chinook salmon so you can fish for them with medium trout gear or light trolling gear. A moderately fast action rod with a medium power is ideal. For casting, it just needs to be able to handle a 3/4-1oz. lures.
When it comes to line, you don’t need to go excessively heavy, especially if you are going to be casting for your salmon. If you are trolling, 10-15# test line is adequate. For casting, 10# line should be enough.
The choice of spinning or casting reel is a personal preference if casting. For trolling, a casting or small trolling reel is preferential.
Where to fish for pink salmon
When pink salmon are in Puget Sound in force, they are just about everywhere. A good tactic is to watch the internet forums for reports on where fish are.
The pink salmon will work their way in from the ocean, so in late July, early August, you will start seeing reports from places like Hood Canal. The later in the season it goes, the farther in they will be as they start to move up the rivers. That will be when to switch to fishing for Humpies in the rivers.
All the standard areas to troll for salmon are potential pink salmon territory. The old reliable racetrack between the Mukilteo ferry boat launch and shipwreck in 30-60 feet of water is always a good bet and has even been dubbed ‘Humpy Hollow’.
Look for points and bays where fish will stack up as they move from the Straight of Juan de Fuca and head for the area rivers.
But don’t let all the contrived locations limit you though. Sometimes getting away from all the other boats can be just what you need to put fish in the boat.
A critical factor is trolling speed. Pink salmon aren’t going to chase your lures like Chinook or Coho. You need to go slow. Put your gear in the water and go as slow as you can to keep it having the desired action!
Almost any Puget Sound beach is a great place to fish for pinks if they are running. From Point No Point, to Mukilteo, on down two Browns Point. All the area fishing piers are great places to go as well.
Be warned though as the fishing heats up, you had better be prepared for combat fishing. This is especially true for the fishing piers and more popular beaches.
Lures for pink salmon fishing
When it comes to trolling for pink salmon, the tried and true rig is an 8″ white flasher with a pink mini-squid behind it brandishing a pair of 2/0 hooks.
My preference is to tie the squid with 2/0 red barbless hooks on 20# line. You can use beads as spacers to keep the hooks down out of the squid. The trailing hook point should be just behind the end of the squid.
Here is a video on how to tie a two hook rig for your mini-squid.
Jigs for pink salmon
Probably the #1 lure for pink salmon is a 2 or 2L pink Buzz Bomb. It can be cast or vertically jigged and has proven to be effective year after year. You can find them on Amazon for anywhere from about $4 each to $6.
Next on popularity is any of a massive variety of pink jigs. From marabou bodies to plastic and so on, these can be cast and twitched in or even thrown out under a bobber and left to bounce in the waves.
Any of these can be cast from shore with great effectiveness, or you can locate a school of fish and cast in front of them which is a great way to spend a quiet afternoon on the waters of Puget Sound.
Spoons for Humpies
Typically used when trolling, these come in as many varieties as people can imagine. The key component is that they be pink.
You will want to fish these behind a flasher of some sort to give them a little more action and some flash. To get to the desired depth you can use a downrigger, diver (Amazon link) or even just a weight and spreader bar.
While spoons generally shine for trolling for pink salmon, in the rivers, casting a small Dick Nite spoon, in pink of course, is as much of a staple as the white dodger and pink mini-squid combo in the sound.
Casting these out with just enough weight to keep them near the bottom and in the fish’s faces is the key to success. Too much weight and you will hang up in the rocks and too little and you risk skipping over the fish.
Pink Mini Squid
The classic lure for trolling for pink salmon is a pink mini-squid tied up on a double hook rig, behind an 8″ plain white flasher.
Storing your catch
Pink salmon are not the the most durable fish once caught. Their meat is not as tough as that of say a Chinook salmon. This means that it is essential that as soon as you land a fish, that you give it a good whack on the head and then cut its gill slits to bleed it out. This will help preserve the meat
The second step of this is keeping it cold. Warm salmon is bad salmon. A cooler full of ice, but not water that the fish is soaking in, works well. Another option is a foil or insulated catch bag for fish (Amazon link) with some reusable frozen blocks. You can either buy a commercially made catch bag for fish, or DIY yourself up one.
Regardless of what method you use, keeping your pink salmon as cold as possible after you catch it, will preserve it for the final and probably most important step, cooking!
Cooking your pink salmon
People in general trash talk pink salmon and say how horrible it is. This is funny to me since it is the salmon that you get when you buy a can of salmon. Now I will admit that it isn’t as awesome as a good King salmon, but pink salmon are good eats, especially if they are prepared correctly.
The normal way most people prepare their pink salmon is to smoke it. The number of recipes is endless as is the debate as to the best one. Personally, I’m a fan of salmon candy recipes. About all you will need to do this is some time and a smoker.
Depending on your space and zeal for smoking things, smokers come from the small basic units like the tried and tested Little Chief units on up to giant units with automatic feed and propane burners. Personally, I’m shopping for a small, mid-range electric smoker (Amazon link) for my new apartment home base.
You shouldn’t just relegate pink salmon to smoking, however. I’m a fan of basic seasoning and cooking methods for salmon like in this easy salmon recipe. Of course, you can get fairly fancy as well.
Salmon to me is always best grilled or broiled and with pink salmon, you will want to give it a touch more seasoning as it is a very mild salmon. Which by the way is perfect for people that really don’t like that strong ‘salmon flavor’ that other species can have.
Wrapping up pink salmon fishing
The pink salmon run is definitely worth getting out for, especially if you have young or inexperienced anglers. They bite aggressively and are big enough to put up a good fight without being scary like a big Chinook can be.
The gear is simple and you will likely already have most of what you need laying around if you do any fishing at all. Watch your calendars and the fishing reports and get out there and catch some pink salmon while they are here!