MOINES, Wash.-Five-point-one-six MILLION pink salmon in Washington!
Woo-hoo! I'm already stoked for what promises to be at least two
solid months of the frenetic salmon fishing that only happens
in odd-numbered years. Although our neighbors in North Puget Sound
will benefit from the lion's share, state managers still predict
nearly 1.6 million fish will pull into the Central and South Sound's
Green and Puyallup rivers. That's a lot of filled freezers, stuffed
smokers and endless barbecues. More importantly, it's a lot of
bent rods, good memories and fantastic opportunities to get those
youngsters out to enjoy salmon fishing the way it should be, with
OR HUMPIES as they're also known as, start entering Puget Sound
in July. Although the thought of a 20-plus-pound Chinook seems
more enticing, some days it just doesn't work out. That's where
the pinks will fill the boat - literally! You will catch pinks
incidentally while fishing for Chinook or coho, but if you target
them specifically, the action can be incredible.
They will be found throughout the South Sound, but there are a
couple areas which typically see high concentrations of these
Marine Area 10 off Seattle, the East Waterway of the Duwamish
acts as a funnel for the hundreds of thousands of fish headed
up the Green River. Put your gear down in front of the waterway
and fish up towards the first bridge. The bridge will be shoulder
to shoulder with fisherman, so give them their space. You'll know
if you get too close if you start getting bombarded with lead.
To the south, in Area 11, the water from Redondo down Poverty
Bay and around Browns Point acts as a highway for pinks returning
to the Puyallup River. The area from shore out a couple hundred
yards should be thick with fresh chrome fish ready to pounce on
PINKS ARE NOTORIOUS for traveling in schools, so once you hook
up, it may, and should, equal multiple hookups. Don't reel up
the other lines when hooked up - they could be bit as well. Generally
target from 20 feet down to 60 feet, but as the sun comes out
and temperatures warm, don't be afraid to drop down 90 feet or
That said, using downrigger is going to be the most effective
method. We use three Scotty 106 downriggers off my boat, running
them at 25 and 50 feet for two anglers, 25, 40 and 55 feet for
three anglers, and 25, 35, 45 and 60 feet with four. Once we find
the depth they are biting at, we adjust all the lines to that
trolling, your speed, or lack thereof, is crucial. If you think
you're going slow enough, slow down some more. Troll with the
tide. If you have enough room and there are no boats next to you,
zigzag with the tide. In general, as you switch directions, your
line will slow down, many times enticing a strike. If you've done
the Lake Washington sockeye fishery, that's the slow I'm talking
about. You want your presentation to SLOWLY sway back and forth.
OF PRESENTATIONS, think, well, PINK! It may sound corny, but I
swear these salmon will hit anything pink.
ULTIMATE pink-catching combination is the Silver Horde Pink Katcher
Kit! You cannot go wrong with this pre-tied setup. It consists
of a white 8-inch flasher, 16 inches of leader and a hot-pink
hoochie. Put this combo 15 feet behind the downrigger ball and
it should be fish on! During our last pink year, 2007, I experimented
a bit, substituting a Silver Horde Ace Hi Fly for the hoochie,
and had tremendous success. This year the Lynnwood, Wash.-based
company came out with the Pink Jr. Fly, and it should be phenomenal;
I guarantee it'll be on my line. If fishing below 60 feet, remember
that red, or pink, is the first color to disappear from the color
spectrum beneath the surface. For that reason, pink isn't as important,
but it is important for the fish to see the bait. Switch to a
UV or glow hoochie or an Ace Hi.
you'd rather use an 11-inch flasher or dodger, that's fine, but
still troll slowly enough so that it "dodges" rather than turns
over. Also, because of the larger flasher or dodger, even going
this slow will have a little more action, so increase your leader
to 18 to 20 inches.
you'd rather not use a dodger or a flasher, that's fine too. Put
on a Silver Horde UV Kingfisher spoon.
all of your presentations, use scent. Shrimp Smelly Jelly or Special
Mix works great.
bait fisherman? No problem, dye your herring pink. Use the brine
mix on Salmonuniversity.com, but instead of using the bluing,
add Brite Pink Fluorescent Bad Azz dye.
WILL MAINLY RUN 3 to 5 pounds with the occasional 8- to 10-pounder.
The state saltwater record is a little over 11½ pounds while the
biggest freshwater fish was 2007's 15.4-pounder.
said, you don't need to use normal salmon gear. Light tackle makes
a world of difference when it comes to having fun, and these fish
will provide it. A 6- to 10-pound rated steelhead rod is just
plain old fun when you hook up. Not a downrigger fan? No problem
here either. In fact, a way to have an absolute blast with these
fish is to cast Buzz Bombs. Remember, these fish are generally
in the top 60 feet of the water column. Early mornings they're
not hard to find on your fish finder. Shut off the motor and cast
just "past" the school if you can. Let the lure flutter down.
If you don't get a strike as it falls, start retrieving once it
has fallen 30 to 60 feet (at the rate of about 1 foot per second).
When retrieving, use a "twitching" motion and reel in the slack
as it's falling. As Tom Nelson from Salmon University can attest,
you'll receive some vicious strikes using this method.
color Bomb? You know.
here's a method that you won't see many using on the salt, but
take my word, it will flat-out catch fish - a No. 1 pink or 50/50
Dick Nite spoon weighted under a float! Yep, the same lure that's
caught thousands upon thousands of pinks in the rivers works in
the salt too.
these are such light spoons, you do need to have some weight before
your leader and you also need to target the shallows, usually
in lagoons or near beaches that are only 10 to 20 feet deep. This
method is an absolute killer just north of Browns Point at the
mouth of Commencement Bay. To hook it up, use a float (dink float
works just fine), then 4 feet to a ¼-ounce weight, then another
4 feet to your spoon. Cast it out and let it drift with the tide.
Just like we want our presentation from a downrigger to sway back
and forth, so too do we want the spoon to just flutter and not
turn over. This is VERY effective when you see pinks moving through
in schools. If you can't see them in the shallows, try the aforementioned
tactics. To see them effectively make sure you're wearing good
quality polarized sunglasses, like those from Ocean Waves.
YOU GET A PINK in the boat, it's extremely important to bleed
the fish immediately. Cut both gills and let them bleed out. After
only a few minutes, clean the fish and put them on ice! Failure
to bleed and clean fast will result in poor quality fish. But
when done immediately, you'll have some excellent table fare,
especially for the BBQ or smoker.