Pinks are in: Catching Salmon from the Shore
The Fish Journal" Issaquah Press, Published September 2, 2009

By Dallas Cross
Humped Salmon Image


I have been asked several times where to go to catch and keep fish if one does not have access to a boat. Well the biennial answer has just arrived in Puget Sound. The pinks are in and ready to run up virtually every river emptying into the sound. "Pink" is a nickname for the salmon that arrive in August to spawn in our rivers every odd numbered year.

Their official name is Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, (The Russians named them first) but they are commonly known as Pink or Humpy Salmon. They are the most numerous salmon in North Pacific waters and in American rivers mainly spawning from Alaska to the Columbia River with scattered groups going south as far south as Northern California.They are called pinks because unlike other salmon with salmon-red flesh, their flesh is much lighter and pink in color. Their nickname has a double meaning because to catch them you can't go wrong using pink flies and lures. When mature and ready to spawn the males have exaggerated dorsal humps evoking the humpy tag

Pink Salmon hang out shallow salt water and close to shore, especially during their migration back to the river where they hatched. This means you can fish for them from many beaches and shores with a public access. With a fly rod be prepared to wade out to cast a number 4 or 6, pink or chartreuse fly with flashy tinsel strips about as far as you can throw; or with a spinning rod you may stay relatively dry near the beach and cast a floating bobber with flies or jigs beneath it. Successful folks also cast a pink- or red-striped metal lures; retrieving them with rapid jerks.

The best fishing time for salt water pinks is at first light in the morning and on fast, incoming tidal currents.The place to fish for pinks is not really a secret. All you have to do is scout the public parks (shown in green on city maps) and go where they border salt water. The most popular and productive ones are near river mouths or on points of land. You will know when you are in a good spot because you will invariably see other fisherpersons maneuvering for casting room on the shore. Lincoln Park, Golden Gardens near Shilshole Bay, Kayak Point, Dash Point, Smokey Point, Brown's Point beach access, and Carkeek Park all have pink salmon fishing opportunities. Use public accesses to them and respect private property.

When you hook up with a pink salmon, you will find they don't give up easily, even though they only weigh from 3 to 5 pounds. When you bring them to net, loosen your line drag and be prepared for the violent last struggle they usually make. You should confirm the identity of the salmon as a pink because Chinook, or King, salmon juveniles, and resident blackmouth salmon, look similar. Now, all Chinook salmon must be immediately released back into the water. The Washington State Fish and Wildlife has increased emphasis on discovering illegal salmon catches and are surveying more docks and shores to find law breakers.

To identify pink salmon you need to review the descriptions posted along with the current fishing regulations by the WSFW in their booklets or on the internet. Check there also for limits and limitations in gear. Pink Salmon are legal to keep within current salmon limits and you may harvest two in addition to the regular salmon limit. They are characterized by a white mouth with black gums, no teeth on the tongue, large oval-shaped black spots on the back and a V-shaped tail with no silver color on it.

Pink Salmon make fine fare if properly dressed and cooked shortly after catching. It is especially important to cut the gills and bleed out the fish immediately after catching. I usually do this in my net so as to not again loose another salmon that wriggled free before being dispatched. Dress out the salmon as soon as possible and keep it on ice in the chest you are sitting on while fishing from the shore.

There is an encore. After the pinks enter the rivers to spawn they can be caught from river banks or by wading. Fly casting is productive in slower waters but pink spoons and especially drifting corkies with pink yarn fished near the stream bottom do very well in faster water. You can catch Pink Salmon in the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Puyallup, Green, Skagit, and Stillaguamish Rivers, all not very far away.Now, you don't have the excuse of not fishing because you don't have a boat. So take that young friend or relative out to enjoy the thrill of a good fighting fish that is as nice in photos as on the grill.


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