Best Pink Salmon Lures for River Fishing
I live near a few great Pink Salmon fishing rivers, where these easy-to-catch fish arrive en masse every other year. When they make their way through Puget Sound and into our rivers, they become a crowd favorite with everyone; from the seasoned angler to the novice.
Pink Salmon Migration Back to the River
Pink Salmon (also known as Humpy Salmon or Humpies), are the smallest of the five salmon species, but also the most abundant. Their primary range is Puget Sound in Washington State north through British Columbia, and most of Alaska. Pink Salmon are unique, because they have a very strict biological clock, and pretty much every single Pink Salmon lives exactly two years. In the southern end of their range, they return to spawn in odd-numbered years (2019, 2021, 2023). Alaskan rivers receive Pinks in odd-numbered years, but the largest returns happen in even-numbered years.
Pink Salmon and Beginner’s Luck
Pink Salmon season is the perfect time to get a first introduction into the world of river salmon fishing. In many rivers, you will be casting to dozens (if not hundreds) of salmon, and there are usually a few that are greedy enough to take the bait (pun intended).
Humpy Salmon Fishing Lures
I put together a short list of my favorite Pink Salmon lures for you. I would say that this assortment covers any river fishing situation that you will encounter when the Pinks come flooding in.
Marabou Humpy Twitching Jig
Twitching is my top technique for catching Pink Salmon. Essentially, you just cast a 1/8 oz to 3/8 oz jig on a light tackle rod, you let the jig sink, you jerk the rod tip to cause the jig to lift rapidly, then you lower the rod tip to let the jig fall. Marabou is a great material for Humpy jigs because it undulates and moves like no other material. Favorite colors are pink, pink/white, white, cerise/white and fuschia. Any variation of pink will be a great starting point.
Plastic Squid Twitching Jig
Plastic hoochie squid skirts make a great twitching jig for Pinks. The plastic skirts have amazing durability. You can catch and catch and catch on plastic squid jigs and never have to retire you lure from being too mangled (as often happens with marabou jigs). Same jig-head weight of 1/4 oz to 3/8 oz.
Dick Nite Spoon
You may be asking yourself, “why would a salmon eat a lure so dinky that it might be too small for trout fishing?” Well, I don’t have an answer for you on that. What I can tell you that the Dick Nite Spoon is one of the most effective Pink Salmon lures around. The most popular technique is to drift fish a Dick Nite, but some situations warrant fishing these lures under a bobber. Favorite colors are half brass/half nickel (50/50), nickel with pink head, pink/white and half nickel/half pink.
Humpy Special Spoon
The Humpy Special Spoon is the one of the longtime staples of Pink Salmon fishing. This lure has been around for eons, and has accounted for many great fishing days. If I am fishing a slow and deep stretch of river, I will chuck one of these out and slowly retrieve it back. Smear a small amount of scent on the spoon for added attraction (krill scent or shrimp scent are my favorites).
P-Line Laser Minnow
The P-Line Laser Minnow my favorite all-time lure for catching Pink Salmon off of the beaches around Puget Sound. They are also a great option in the lower reaches of our larger rivers. Cast it out, lift the rod 2′ to jig it up, drop the rod 1′ to let it flutter down while reeling in a little slack, and repeat. I prefer the smaller sizes in 1/2 oz to 3/4 oz, in any variation of chrome and pink.
The Buzz Bomb is another classic salmon lure. Their two smallest sizes, 2 and 2L, are effective in the lower stretches of any major river. Here at home, we will fish with Buzz Bombs in the lower Snohomish, lower Skagit and Duwamish Rivers. Metal jigs move fast, which means that this lure will attract a strike from the most aggressive fish.
Cheater and Yarn Rig
Drift fishing is a popular method in many rivers, especially in glacial rivers where the salmon may not be able to see a lure from more than a foot or two away. Rig a snelled octopus hook with a tuft of pink yarn and cheater, 24″ to 48″ leader. Use enough weight to get your gear tumbling across the bottom.
Bobber and Jig Rig
The bobber and jig rig is another great way to catch Pink Salmon. Run a smaller 1/16 oz to 1/8 oz jig below a bobber and let it naturally drift downstream. I usually don’t get to fancy with my jigs, but the jig box I keep in my winter steelhead pack has plenty of pink patterns that work well for Humpy fishing.
Bobber and Sand Shrimp Rig
I rarely mess with bait, because there are so many great artificial lure options. But when the Pinks get finicky, throw a fresh Sand Shrimp at them. In lower current flows, I suspend a small Sand Shrimp under a bobber. You would be amazed at how a slow fishing day can turn around when you introduce fresh bait into the picture. Sand Shrimp can be a little expense, a little hard to come by during peak season and are definitely fragile. But can turn a slow fishing day around in an instant.
Spin Glo and Sand Shrimp Plunking Rig
Plunking has always been a great tactic for catching Pink Salmon. The setup is simple, and as long as you can find some fresh Sand Shrimp, you will be in for a productive day. Small Spin Glo’s in size 8, 6 and 4 are perfect for Pink Salmon fishing.
Brad’s Wiggler Plug
Brad’s Wiggler and Wee Wiggler plugs are great Pink Salmon lures. BS Fishtales make a number of great colors: pink, metallic pink, Dr. Death, and many others.
Maglip Plug 2.5, 3.0 & 3.5
Yakima Bait Company hit a home run when they introduced the Maglip plug several years ago. The Maglip in the smaller sizes: 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 are a the best plugs you can use to catch Pink Salmon. These lures are best trolled or back-trolled from a boat.
River Fishing for Humpy Salmon
When the Pink Salmon return to the river to spawn, they offer us all an awesome chance to catch a few salmon with limited effort and expense. When you do land your first Pink Salmon, make sure to bleed it and put it on ice immediately. These fish return at the end of summer when river waters are still warm. Because of this, a little added care goes a long way to preserve the quality of their fillets.
Pink Salmon doesn’t have the richness of a Sockeye or Chinook, but that is totally ok. In fact, many people that don’t like salmon because it’s so rich. But they might turn out to be fans of the mild flavor of a Pink Salmon fillet. I’m already looking forward to our next season!