Pink (Humpy) Salmon
The Pink is the smallest of the true salmon and is a member of the ‘salmonidae’ family. They are sometimes called “Humpies” due to a large humpback that occurs during spawning runs. Though they are the smallest of Pacific salmon found in North America, they are also the most plentiful. Their natural range extends through the Pacific Rim of Asia and in North America and they can be found in large numbers along the coasts of the North Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. They are coldwater fish and in Alaska they are primarily found along the coast, with a few smaller populations in the Copper River delta.
As with all salmon, pink salmon are anadromous: they hatch in freshwater and migrate to salt water, where they mature until they are ready to return to freshwater for spawning. They have the shortest lifespan of all Pacific salmon found in North America: only two years! Instead of the period of living in freshwater that most salmon species have, pink salmon travel to the ocean immediately after hatching. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, because of this, populations of pink salmon actually vary genetically according to the years in which they hatch. Odd-year pink salmon are unrelated, and do not breed with, salmon that hatch in even years. Some streams have more of one population than the other, but others have both in equal numbers.
Much smaller than other salmon, pink salmon weigh between 3.5 and 5 pounds with a length of 20 to 25 inches, on average. They are known as pink salmon because of their pink flesh. When they are young, their bodies are completely silver and do not have any markings. Once in the ocean, their sides remain silver while their tops become bright greenish-blue. Black spots develop on their backs and tails once they are ready to return to fresh water. Males develop a black back as they enter spawning waters, and a bright white belly. The males also develop a large hump and a hooked jaw known as a kype. Spawning females have the same color on their belly, but the rest of them becomes olive green with patches or bars that can be dark gold or lavender.
Fly Fishing for Pink Salmon
Pink salmon are not as highly sought after as some of the other true salmon, though there is still a commercial market for them. They have been fished and canned commercially in Alaska since the late 1800’s. Mostly sold canned, they are valued for caviar, especially in Japan. As far as sports fishing goes, not too many people set out for pinks. They are mostly a byproduct of fishing for another species, like silver salmon, whose runs coincide in most places. Whichever species you’re looking for, No See Um Lodge is the place to seek the ultimate fly fishing experience.
Fly fishing season for pink salmon runs from mid-July through September, with the best time being in late July or August.
Pink Salmon Fishing Flies
Pink salmon maturing in saltwater feed primarily on plankton, marine shrimp and krill, smaller fish, squid and aquatic insects. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, adults returning to spawn do not eat.
It is recommended that you use brightly colored pink flies to catch their attention. Surface flies can work but pinks are primarily caught a couple feet below the surface. Alaska Fly Fishing Goods suggests 6 to 8 wt rods and a reel with a good drag and a weight forward floating line. They also offer a number of different flies, including the Humpy Hooker, Lead Eyed Egg Sucking Leech, and the Pink Starlite Leech.
Pink Salmon Fly Fishing Tips
Pink salmon are the smallest of all Pacific salmon and are perfect for novice fishermen looking to gain experience with fly-fishing. They are not very strong fighters, so they can be easily caught. While this may the reason for their lesser appeal among die-hard sports fishermen, they are great recreational fish for milder enthusiasts. In short, while they are plentiful, pink salmon must be fished at the right time and location. We can help you plan this out at No See Um lodge—give us a call!