HUMPY (PINK) FISHING
By Tom Nelson
Humpies or Pink salmon return in heavy numbers in Alaska, British Columbia, Canada and Washington. They also exist in great numbers in the Great Lakes area of the Midwest. This year (2013) six and a half million humpies are expected to return to Puget Sound.
In Alaska and BC, Humpies return every year. The northern waters of BC experience a run every year (either local or migrating). As we move south into the Frazer River area of BC, Humpies become an odd year fish. The mighty Frazer River has massive returns of Humpies, numbering in the millions in odd years.
In Washington State, the main returns are also odd year fish, much like southern BC. There is a small return on the even year. Washington Humpies return primarily to the Skagit, Snohomish, Puyallup and Nisqually River systems, with smaller returns to Hood Canal and small rivers in the Straits of Juan De Fuca.
The average Humpy caught is in the 3-5 lb. range with some up to 14 lbs. The BC Fraser River Humpies are larger than most Humpies caught on the west coast. But, even in the Northwest, the occasional Humpy caught will be over 14 lbs. While the Humpy is the smallest of the Northwest’s five species of salmon, they are tenacious fighters, and properly handled, excellent eating. If you fish and catch Humpies with the same gear you are using for Chinook, you will probably not be thrilled with the fight. But, if you target Humpies with a light Steelhead/Salmon rod (even a heavy trout rod) and lighter gear, it quickly becomes apparent that these salmon are real fighters.
Many anglers refuse to recognize that a properly handled Humpy is a good eating salmon. They are especially good smoked. Humpies that aren’t properly handled quickly become soft and lose their flavor.
So, let’s talk about how to take care of your Humpy catch. Once you land a Humpy, give it a sharp rap on its head to put it to sleep. Second, cut both gills and allow your catch to bleed out. Next, clean your Humpy as soon as possible and get it on ice. Bank anglers, smaller boats or even larger ones, such as my 24 ft. North River need a high quality cooler. The Silver Horde KatchKooler Bag is the ideal way for most anglers to keep their catch fresh (click here to see instructions for successfully using the Katch Kooler).
Here are the guidelines for hot Humpy fishing:
CASTING FROM SHORE OR DOCK FOR HUMPIES (PINKS)
Those anglers that are shore bound can do quite well Humpy fishing. Some of the better places to fish are Ediz Hook, Lagoon Point, Bush Point, Point No Point, Browns Point and the shoreline at Point Defiance. However, almost any shoreline where you have access will have Humpies passing by.
Some of the tackle that works well are 1/8 or ¼ oz. jigs fished under a float. Cast out, let your jig sink, and then begin a slow retrieve. Reel about six feet, pause, let your jig sink and repeat. Retrieve your float until it’s almost on shore, as Humpies very often you will catch a Humpy in knee-deep water.
Dick Nite spoons or the new Silver Horde #2 Kingfisher spoons will also work well under a float, using the same “reel and pause” method. These lures will also work well with the traditional “cast and retrieve” method.
The main thing is THINK PINK in lure selection.
Don’t be surprised if you hook a nice Chinook or Coho!