Friday, June 14, 2024

THE WASHINGTON OUTDOOR REPORT September 3

Humpy Madness Continues

Posted

I just returned from my bi-annual camping trip to Fort Casey State Park on the east side of Whidbey Island. I book a stay there every other year in mid to late August to take advantage of the pink salmon that return to Puget Sound and its tributary rivers every odd year.

Pink salmon usually run on the smaller side, with three-pound fish being pretty average. 2023 though has been a banner year! Some four million pink salmon are in Puget Sound this summer and there are a lot of nicer fish being caught. Doug Saint Denis, the owner of 365 Charters LLC, told me he is definitely seeing this play out on the Sound this summer. On a recent guided outing, a thirteen-year-old girl from Wisconsin hooked and landed an 11.9-pound pink salmon.

In case you are wondering if this is a new state record, I know I was, it is not. The current state record pink salmon was caught in 2007 on the Stillaguamish River by Adam Stewart, a behemoth that weighed a whopping 15.4 pounds.

The pink salmon generally start showing up first around Sekiu in Marine Area 5 where anglers target both pinks and coho salmon during the months of July and early August. When August gets into full swing, the pinks flood the entire Sound and anglers can catch them everywhere from Hoodsport to the San Juans and everywhere in between.

Pink salmon tend to swim in the upper water column and it’s easy to identify schools as they readily jump out of the water. While many anglers target them from boats, you can also have very good success fishing from shore because the pinks, also known as humpies, and the coho salmon that sometimes run with them will often be found within  casting distance of the beach in the morning, the evening and as high tide rolls in.

I fished from off the beach for three days. I spent all three mornings fishing off the point at Fort Casey State Park battling a strong ebb tide. The first morning several anglers caught coho salmon using chartreuse fluttering jigs like Reapers or Buzz Bombs with pink hoochies covering the hook. However, outside of that morning the fishing was pretty slow at the state park.

I was told I could find more pinks about two miles south of the park at Driftwood Beach. I headed down there to find the tide coming in and the pinks on the bite. There were probably 25 anglers on the beach and it seemed like everyone was hooking into the humpies. The go to lure?

A 2 1⁄2 inch to 3-inch-long pink Buzz Bomb. Fishing the Sound, you do have to use a single barbless hook. Other lures worth trying would be a Mack’s Lure Sonic Baitfish in a pink/white color combination or simply a 1⁄2 ounce pink colored spoon. As long as it’s pink, and you can cast it a long-way from shore, you’ve got an excellent opportunity to hook up!

My first fish was a stout pink, weighing close to six pounds. I caught an averaged size 3-pounder after that which I released and a short while later hooked into another good pink that weighed north of four pounds. Sensing I wouldn’t be able to readily upgrade from these two fish, I called it a day after less than an hour of fishing. I then contented myself to watching others fight and reel in salmon galore with broad smiles on their faces and joyful laughs and screams as they hooked up. It was especially fun to watch fathers and mothers with their children who got to reel in their first salmon that day.

The pink salmon are moving into the rivers now and the run will continue through the middle of September. The Skagit River is always a good bet around Youngs Bar and the railroad bridge in Mt. Vernon, as is the Lower Snohomish River which opened up September 1 from the mouth to the railroad bridge near the Snohomish boat launch. The Snohomish is scheduled to open upstream from there to the mouth of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie Rivers on September 16.

Heading south, the Puyallup, Duwamish, and Green Rivers all offer good opportunities for humpies too, and if you are wondering why they have that nickname, it’s because of the pronounced hump the males develop on their back after they enter freshwater to spawn. You can still catch humpies with spoons or spinners in the river, but most anglers will twitch pink jigs you can either cast and retrieve or fish under a slip bobber. Drift fishing a pink or 50/50 (brass and nickel) Dick Nite spoon is also a great offering that has been catching pink salmon for decades.

When it comes to table fare the pink salmon get a bum rap, with many anglers looking down on them. Personally, I’ve found freshly caught and cooked pink salmon, especially out of the saltwater, taste great off the grill. If you do freeze them, I would recommend consuming them within a couple of weeks. The thinner fillets of these salmon, compared to coho or Chinook, don’t hold up as well over time in the freezer. As for the salmon you catch out of the river? They taste just fine after you brine them and smoke them. The bottom line is this, if you are looking to get into a bunch of salmon during a day of fishing or want to introduce a new angler to the joys of salmon fishing, the humpies are here now and waiting for you.

For more information: John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com

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