Anglers will soon be tickled pink with delight as more than 6.2 million pink salmon will surge into Puget Sound.
“In no time it will be pinkapalooza time in Puget Sound, and expectations are for a pretty darn good fishery,” said Steve Thiesfeld, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound salmon manager. “It is amazing how much is going on this summer with a lot of fish to be caught.”
For the past two weeks, anglers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay to Port Angeles have been scoring big numbers of pinks, and now it is game on for local bank and boat anglers.
“We’re already having some encouraging early signs of pinks showing up earlier than we traditionally see,” Thiesfeld said. “I saw a report the pinks were showing up all the way down to Seattle.”
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The pink run in marine areas of Puget Sound tend to peak by early-to-mid August, and then river anglers will start to catch them by late August through October.
This summer’s forecast is up more than 1.2 million pinks from the 2011 return, and they are the most abundant and smallest of the five Pacific salmon species.
Another 8.9 million pinks are expected back in the Fraser River in Canada, which will also boost catches in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands.
Pinks only return in odd-numbered years, and are commonly referred to as “humpies” for a hump that forms on the back of male fish near spawning time.
While most other salmon species have dwindled, the pinks for some unknown reason have skyrocketed, and colonized in other Puget Sound rivers where they’ve never existed, such as the Green River.
The Green is expecting more than 1.3 million this summer. A little more than a decade ago, the pinks established themselves in the Green, and by 2009 more than 3 million returned.
Other rivers with strong runs are Nisqually, 764,937; Skagit about 1.2 million; Stillaguamish, 409,700; Snohomish, 988,621; Hood Canal, 55,314; Nooksack, 154,075; and Puyallup, more than 1.2 million.
Pinks average about 5 pounds, and the state freshwater record is 15.40 pounds caught Oct. 11, 2007 in the Stillaguamish River by Adam Stewart. The saltwater state record is 11.56 pounds, caught Aug. 25, 2001 off Possession Point in North Puget Sound by Jeff Bergman.
The huge number means that in all marine areas of Puget Sound, anglers will be able to keep up to four pinks daily.
“It should pick up right about now, and in the next 10 days it will be on fire,” said Mike Chamberlain, owner of Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood.
Because pinks’ mouths are rather soft, anglers should not yank or jerk hard on the rod to set the hook. Just keep the line snug and reel them in gently.
You don’t need any high-tech gear to catch them, and usually a light salmon fishing rod with a spinning reel using 6- to 10-pound test line will get the job done.
Pinks are attracted to any type of pink or bright green colored jig, marabou fly, hootchie (plastic squid), lure, Dick Nite-type spoons and spinner.
The standard setup for saltwater boat anglers is a white dodger with pink hootchie or squid trolled very slowly. Anglers also catch them on traditional bait such as a cut-plug herring.
Pinks taste great as long as they are bled immediately after being caught, and placed on ice. The meat quality falls off the boards once they enter freshwater.