Meet the Fish: Pink Salmon
The most abundant of Alaska's salmonids, the pink salmon can be found in great numbers in almost every region of the state, with Southeast and Kodiak often hosting runs of 40 million or more. Also called the Humpy (or Humpback) salmon after the species' distinctive body morph during spawning, pinks are available from July to September, with the best fishing occurring in late July and August in or near the estuaries of their spawning rivers. Averaging 3-6 lbs with the occasional specimen weighing in at over 10lbs, these "People's Salmon" are certainly a "gateway fish" for the novice and experienced angler alike.
Gear and Flies
Scrappy fighters, the pink salmon can be successfully pursued with rods in the 6 to 8 weight class. When using the lighter gear, a reel with a good drag is a must. A weight forward floating line is usually the best choice. Pinks readily bite on a large variety of flies, including top water offerings. Tried and true producers such as the Humpy Hooker, Lead Eyed Egg Sucking Leech, and the Pink Starlite Leech should be in every pink angler's arsenal.
Ideal single hand rods for pinks are medium to fast action 6-8 wts in 9-10' lengths. Most anglers choose an 8 wt as their all around salmon rod, but pinks on a six are a lot more fun. If fishing for pinks in the salt, be sure to have a rod that has an anodized reel seat. There are a good number of six weight rods that have saltwater versions that come with a fighting butt. These rods also double over as great beach and estuary Dolly Varden rods earlier in the spring. For switch rods, 10'6 - 11'6 rods rated for line weights of 330-420 grains are ideal. These rods are often rated from 5-7 wt.
Depending on where the pinks are being targeted will help choose the best reel option. If pinks are being targeted soley in freshwater, both machined anodized reels and cast aluminum reels work great. If saltwater or estuaries are part of the plan, look more towards the machined reels. Salt and brackish water is very hard on cast aluminum reels.
Over 90 percent of all pink fishing in Alaska is done with a weight forward floating line with a 9' salmon/steelhead leader. Pinks tend to run along the shallow gravel bars or sit high in the water column when resting in pools. Pinks are generall very aggressive towards flies and will often move a ways to eat one.
Pinks love pink colored flies. Most are tied in size #6 - #4. But don't count on pink 100% of the time. Water conditions vary and high off colored water means darker colors like black and purple and sometimes even olive or gray. Steer clear of chartreuse as that color seems to send pinks in the opposite direction.