When Pink Salmon migrate back to Puget Sound, they bring a special buzz to our already exciting local marine waters. Every summer, we all do our best to get out and chase Chinook and Coho Salmon, but on odd numbered years (2021, 2023, 2025), Pink Salmon swarm back to the Sound by the hundreds of thousands. For those of you that are just getting the hang of our local saltwater fisheries, Pink Salmon are also referred to as Humpy Salmon or Humpies. When they return they offer a great opportunity for everyone, especially those of you that are new to salmon trolling. These are the salmon that will help you find an easy (well easier) catch, and fishing for Pinks is really encouraging for your boat guests that have been eagerly waiting to catch their first salmon!
Puget Sound gets busy during Pink Salmon Season
The scene on Puget Sound during Humpy years is a special one. They tend to travel shallow in the open waters of Marine Area 9, 10 and 11, and the fishing fleet usually has no problem locating the big schools of travelling Pink Salmon. Unlike Chinook but similar to our local Coho, Pink Salmon feed and migrate through open waters. They don’t necessarily concentrate around the underwater structures, giving all the added fishing pressure from extra boats a chance to spread out. That being said, expect to see plenty of other boats out there working the areas where Pinks congregate. In this post, I am going to share with you all the basics that you will need to know to get out and have a great time on the water chasing Pink Salmon in Puget Sound.
When to Fish for Pink Salmon in Puget Sound
As with any of the salmon that migrate into Puget Sound, the Pink Salmon make their way through the Strait of Juan de Fuca into the Sound for the sole purpose of spawning in their home rivers. The largest Pink Salmon spawning tributaries in Puget Sound are the Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish/Skykomish/Snoqualmie, Duwamish/Green, Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers. Pink Salmon fishing can be hot and heavy at the entrance to the Strait at Neah Bay and Sekiu in July, but the big push into Puget Sound occurs in August. We do catch Pink Salmon near Everett and Seattle in July, but the primetime fishery occurs from about the second week in August to the first week in September. The end of the season is usually dictated by our rain forecast. If early September is dry, our saltwater fishery is extended a bit. If we get enough rain in early September to lift our river flows a bit, the Pink Salmon will race into the rivers.
Where to Fish for Pink Salmon in Puget Sound
Pink Salmon follow a wide path back to their home rivers, and we have plenty of broad areas throughout Puget Sound that offer great fishing. Here is a briefing of the general areas where most people find success in the various areas of the Sound. If you are fishing from shore, scroll down to see a few great places to go.
North Puget Sound Pink Salmon Fishing Spots
Every Pink Salmon moving to points south need to travel through Marine Area 9 or Admiralty Inlet, so there is a lot of opportunity here for a great day! The Snohomish River mouth in Everett is a major destination for Pinks, which means that Marine Area 8-2 sees plenty of returning Pinks as well.
- West Whidbey Island near Fort Casey State Park, Bush Point and Lagoon Point
- Shipping Lanes between Possession Bar (Scatchet Head) and Point No Point
- Possession Bar
- Humpy Hollow (appropriately named). 2 miles south of Mukilteo in 200′ to 500′ of water
- Bait Box (between Possession Point and Clinton Ferry Dock
- Port Gardiner between Hat Island and Mukilteo
- Shipping Lanes between Edmonds and Kingston
Central Puget Sound Pink Salmon Fishing Spots
Seattle’s Marine Area 10 usually sees big catch rates during the Pink Salmon return. All those Duwamish/Green, Puyallup and Nisqually River runs swim through, so you will have your chance at intercepting a couple of the hundreds of thousands of Pinks that migrate back to Central and South Sound rivers.
- Richmond Beach south of the Edmonds Oil Docks
- Open waters 200′ to 500′ in front of Meadow Point in Seattle
- Open waters 200′ to 500′ in front of West Point in Seattle
- Shipping Lanes between Seattle and Bainbridge Island
South Puget Sound Pink Salmon Fishing Spots
While at least half of the overall Puget Sound Pink Salmon return heads to rivers further to the north, South Puget Sound has several major spawning destinations. Which means that anglers from Tacoma, Des Moines and points further south still find great fishing.
- Open waters 200′ to 500′ in front of Three Tree Point in Burien
- Open waters 200′ to 500′ in front of Redondo
- Browns Point and Dash Point in Northeast Tacoma
- Commencement Bay in Tacoma
- Southern Tacoma Narrows near Fox Island
- Open waters near the Nisqually River Delta
Beach Fishing for Pink Salmon in Puget Sound
During every year we have a Pink Salmon run, there are just as many anglers fishing from shore as there are from boats. Although most of the success from boat anglers comes from the areas in open waters, each individual run of Pink Salmon eventually veer out of open water and hug the shoreline as they travel towards their spawning destination upstream. There are almost too many great shore fishing spots in Puget Sound to mention, but I’ll do my best to list some of the most popular…
- Point Wilson at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend
- Whidbey Island
- Deception Pass North Beach and West Beach
- Fort Casey State Park
- Bush Point
- Lagoon Point
- Bait Box
- Point No Point on Kitsap Peninsula
- Lighthouse Park in Mukilteo
- Edmonds Pier
- Alki Point in West Seattle
- Coleman Point in West Seattle
- Seacrest Pier in West Seattle
- Des Moines Pier
- Redondo Pier
- Les Davis Pier in Tacoma
What to Use for Shore and Pier Fishing
The main tactic used to catch Pink Salmon from shore or pier is jigging metal. Find yourself a rod that can handle casting a 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce metal jig, such as a Buzz Bomb, Point Wilson Dart or P-Line Lazer Minnow. Spool your reel with 12 pound to 15 pound test line. Cast as far as you can and jig the lure back to your position. If you are on a pier, you will need to think about how you are going to land your catch, most piers are high enough to make a net ineffective, and most veteran anglers use a crab ring, gently leading their catch into the ring and lifting it up to the pier.
Trolling for Puget Sound Pink Salmon
Trolling is by far the most popular boat technique to catch Puget Sound Pink Salmon. I would say that Pink Salmon are the least technical troll fishery we have here locally. Downriggers are preferred. But if you don’t have them, you are in luck because they typically travel in the upper part of the water column, especially during the early morning hours before the sun hits the water.
How Deep do I Troll for Pink Salmon?
In Puget Sound, Pink Salmon are most abundant in the top 100′ of the water column, regardless of the depth of the water. Even in the shipping lanes, which can reach depths of 900′. On many occasions, when I have been searching for Pinks, we will see jumpers. Early in the morning, I like to troll a couple lines near the surface. We will use a mooching sinker (3 to 4 ounce) to get a spoon out the back, but we rely on downriggers for most of the action. Downriggers can be set at depths of 25′ to 60′ for most of the time. If we fish into the late morning or afternoon, we will drop down to as deep as 100′, especially if the sun is out.
How to Perfect Your Trolling Spread
Most of you have a pair of downriggers on your boat, and trolling with a flasher setup will be best. Trolling speed is a crucial factor, for the most part a slower speed is best. While it is difficult for me to give you the perfect trolling speed due to the fact that you may be trolling with or against the current, and they change daily, I will try my best to get you dialed. Coho trolling speeds are FAST. Chinook trolling speeds are SLOW. Try and get on the SLOW end of the spectrum. Get your troll going and drag your flasher setup in the water, you want that flasher to barely rotate. If you are a little fast, you might not have a problem catching, but a slower speed will get you in that preferred zone.
Best Trolling Setups for Puget Sound Pink Salmon
Remember that regardless of what type of lure you choose, the hot color for Pink Salmon is Hot Pink. Or any other variation of pink. While they will snap at lures that are blue, green, white, chartreuse or anything else, they have a real eye for pink lures.
Downrigger Pink Salmon Trolling Setup #1: Run a 3″ pink spoon on 30 pound test leader, 26″ to 36″ behind an 8″ or 11″ flasher.
Downrigger Pink Salmon Trolling Setup #2: Run a 2.5″ Gold Star Mini Sardine Squid, a 4.25″ Gold Star Needlefish or 4.25″ Gold Star Octopus Squid on 25 to 40 pound test leader, 26″ to 36″ behind an 8″ or 11″ flasher.
Downrigger Pink Salmon Trolling Setup #3: Run an Ace High trolling fly on 40 pound test leader, 26″ to 36″ behind an 8″ or 11″ flasher.
Surface Pink Salmon Trolling Setup #4: Rig up a 4 ounce to 5 ounce mooching sinker, followed by 24″ of 40 pound test spreader, to a 3″ pink spoon.
Pink Salmon Trolling Gear Suggestions
If you are fishing with downriggers: Troll with either an 8″ flasher, 11″ flasher or dodger, followed with a 20″ to 36″ leader of 25 to 40 pound test to a plastic squid, trolling fly or 2″ to 4″ spoon. I like to run my gear out 20′ before clipping it into the downrigger release clip.
If you are not fishing with downriggers: Troll with a 3 to 5 ounce mooching sinker, followed by a small dodger and a plastic squid or 2″ to 4″ spoon. There are several trolling divers out there that can work great as well, such as the Deep Six Diver. Spoons have their own action and can be fished with or without a flasher/dodger, plastic squid or trolling flies need that flasher/dodger to impart action to get really fishy. If you use a flasher/dodger, you need some line between that and your sinker/diver. Here is the rigging….
- Sinker/Diver > 24″ leader line > Dodger > 24″ to 36″ leader > plastic squid or 2″ to 4″ spoon
- Sinker/Diver > 36″ leader > 2″ to 4″ spoon
Bait and Scent: It’s always a good idea to scent up your presentation. If you are using a plastic squid or trolling fly, add a little scent or a sliver of herring to the hooks. If you are using a spoon, a little scent can go a long way. If you are buying scent, I prefer Bloody Tuna, Krill, Shrimp or Herring scent.
Preserving and Preparing Your Catch
Pink Salmon are preferred by many that don’t like the richness of Chinook or Sockeye, and they can make for a great meal if grilled, or preserved smoked. If you do your due diligence after landing them, they can be quite a treat! Start by bleeding your catch as soon as it is landed, and get them in a cooler on ice. By the way, you should be doing this with every fish you catch! My second biggest piece of advice is to use what you catch as soon as you can. I’m a big fan of a grilled Pink Salmon fillet with a little salt, pepper, lemon. Smoking a batch that you recently caught makes for a great snack. If I do end up freezing Pinks, I will vacuum pack the fillets and make it a priority to prepare them within a month or two from the date I caught them.
Easy Fishing Every Other Year
While I really enjoy the challenge of catching Puget Sound Chinook, and love the line-busting attitude that our Coho provide, those Pink Salmon offer us a really fun time every odd-numbered year. You don’t want to miss out on the fun this year! I hope this post shared some information that helps you and your crew enjoy this great local Seattle area fishery!