It's Humpy Time!
John Kruse, September 07, 2021
With some three million pink salmon flooding Puget Sound and entering tributary rivers right now, it is prime time to go fishing! Pink salmon return to Puget Sound every odd year and this is the best return we’ve seen in nearly ten years. The pinks are also known as humpies for the hump that forms on their back after they enter freshwater on their journey upstream to spawn. They generally run from three to six pounds in size though they can get bigger than that. As a matter of fact, the state record pink salmon in Washington weighs a whopping 15.4 pounds and was caught by Adam Stewart in the Stillaguamish River in October of 2007.
Right now, you have the luxury of fishing for salmon in the saltwater of Puget Sound or from several river banks where they head upstream to spawn. Guide Brianna Bruce with Livin’ Life Adventures has been fishing the Sound near Mukilteo, trolling 8-to-11-inch flashers and a 2 ½ or 3 inch white or Silver Horde Pink Fisher spoon. She avoids using herring or other bait because dogfish sharks are abundant and will be hitting the bait more often than the salmon do.
If you are fishing from shore in the saltwater, you can humpies from a variety of public piers in Puget Sound or from beaches, especially on Whidbey Island at Lagoon and Bush Point as well as at Fort Casey and Deception Pass State Parks. High tide is a good time to fish but early morning and just before sunset are also very good times to be casting for pinks. Many anglers use a pink buzz bomb, which is cast a long distance and then jigged back to shore. If you can’t find a buzz bomb, consider using a Mack’s Sonic Baitfish (in pink of course) and fish it the same way. The salmon generally hit after you reel up and let the lure flutter and fall a second or two before reeling again.
Spoons are also effective in the saltwater, and in rivers too. I’ve had good success fishing pink spoons close to the bottom on a gravel bar on the Skagit River near the railroad trestle in Mount Vernon. One of my favorite spoons? A DarDevle Devle Dog. Youngs Bar on the Skagit at Mount Vernon is another very well-known place to cast for pinks. A good number of humpies will also fin their way up the Puyallup, Green, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Snohomish and Skykomish Rivers too in the days ahead, with the bulk of the run finished towards the end of September.
Casting spoons is actually an old school method of catching humpies (though it works just fine). Nowadays, many people fish pink jigs or jig heads with pink squid hoochie skirts attached in rivers. In slower moving waters these jigs can be deadly effective.
As for table fare, pink salmon get a bum rap from many anglers who complain about the soft texture of their flesh (made all the softer as they get closer to spawning). I’ve enjoyed some great meals of pink salmon though. Want to do the same? Here’s a few suggestions:
1. Immediately bleed and clean the fish and keep it in a cool place or in the water.
2. Grill it up fresh! Grilled pink salmon on the BBQ is absolutely delicious when cooked within a couple of days of catching it and the firmness and texture of the meat is just fine, as is the taste.
3. If you freeze your salmon resolve to cook it within six weeks. Pink salmon fillets simply don’t hold up as well in the freezer as thicker coho or chinook salmon fillets do.
4. Smoked pink salmon are absolutely delicious, and this is what I recommend doing for pink salmon you freeze and can’t eat within a few weeks.
5. Canned salmon is an option too. There is a reason pink salmon is on sale at the supermarket in cans, people like it on salad or prepared as part of other dishes.
John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com
1. The author with a pink salmon caught from shore on Whidbey Island – J. Kruse
2. Lures that work for salmon from the beach and in the lower rivers – J. Kruse