It's a Pink Year! Yep, the Pink Salmon are here once again and with their return is without question, one of the very best sport fisheries British Columbia has to offer. It is something we at Kamloops Trout always look forward to and from beginners to the well seasoned, If you love to fish you'd be crazy not to want to get out and enjoy this fantastic opportunity, especially since it only comes every two years, every odd year to be exact. I often get asked from other Kamloops area residents all kinds of curious questions about the fishery and thought to try and answer some of those questions briefly here on our blog.
Pink Salmon also known as "Humpies" a characteristic of the males transformation during their spawning period are the smallest of all five sub-species of Pacific Salmon. Pinks are now returning to their home rivers of BC to spawn, to complete their brief two year life cycle. While some anglers may knock the species altogether perhaps because they are not the most favored species of salmon for eating (no better or worse than rainbow trout in my opinion) or perhaps due to their lack in size, while they may perhaps lack in some areas they also make up for ten-fold in others. Not only do they flood the BC coast with exceptional numbers reaching in excess of millions, but they are also one of, if not, perhaps the most aggressive and easy to catch species of Salmon. Pinks are a very under-rated sport fish. Not only are they generally speaking much more eager to strike at your offerings but also fight very similar to our famous "Kamloops" trout. Pound for pound they fight exceptionally hard, like to jump when hooked and will put on a performance that, in many cases, will even put our local trophy Pennasks to shame. It is because of their shear numbers and catchability with the use of light gear that makes them a perfect family fishery and great introduction to salmon fishing.
While you may catch them on just about anything you might find in the local fly and tackle shop, there are some techniques, lures, flies and color that outweigh the rest. First and foremost, Pinks like Pink. For whatever reason it is their kryptonite, they have a real weakness for anything Pink, while it is still good to have a wide variety of options from blues to purples and so on and so forth, a good assortment of Pink presentations is highly recommended. If you are thinking of using salmon roe, save the mess and stink for the springs and coho as you will most likely have just as much if not better success simply casting jigs, small spoons and spinners or retrieving flys, these should undoubtedly get you into some fish (if enough of them are present). Because they tend average sizes between around 3-6lbs light gear is ideal as you want to be able to feel the fight. Leave the big ugly stick equipped with 50lb braid, 20lb leaders or your 9wt fly rods at home. When we are targeting Pinks a simple light trout rod and light line or tippet will suffice just fine and without breaking the bank you can easily get set up for a great outing , all in, for under a 100$. Chances are, if you are reading this you probably have adequate gear lying around already. Typically anywhere from 8-10lb mono or fluorocarbon leader is more than plenty and your 5 or 6 fly rod will be perfect to target these fish. Depending on water speed and depth, fly lines should consist of either a clear intermediate sinking line for slower and shallower water, or a fast sinking line for faster or deeper water. We would suggest bringing both to cover all your bases, just swing and strip there's really nothing to it! Leader lengths should be kept reasonably short as we are not trying to foul hook or floss fish that are more than willing to go out of their way to chase and strike at your presentation. Keep in mind if your are fly fishing, beaded flys will also sink deeper than non-beaded, use your best judgement on what to use for the appropriate water, we don't want our presentations to be at the surface and neither do we want to be dragging them along the rocky bottom, anywhere from a couple feet off the bottom to mid water should be ideal. By switching from either a beaded fly or non-beaded can make all the difference to being in the "zone".
Now that we have touched briefly on gear selection, I'll let you in on what is in our opinion, the most effective way to target Pink Salmon in our local BC waters, second to none. Something anyone can do! And that is, Twitching Jigs! Simply cast out a 3/8 oz jig topped with a 2.5" - 3" pink grub tail to where the fish are and twitch up/down with a couple to few reels of your rod in between... cast-reel-reel-twitch-reel-reel-twitch and repeat. Experiment with faster/slower twitching and reeling until you find what works best for you. We have experienced multiple repeated double and triple headers fishing this technique and have caught upwards of 50-60 fish between our group in just a few short hours of twitching jigs during a push of fresh fish coming in with the tide in the lower vedder river. In a way, It's a lot like the best days of spring chironomid fishing when hook ups on every cast are not uncommon. I could try to write about this for hours but they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a couple videos we put together back in 2015 before "Kamloops Trout" had a home. Please know that these are older vids and our video production skills are still slowly getting better with time.
Twitching Jigs in the Fraser Valley...
And a bit of Salwater downrigger action followed by some "buzzbombing", essentially the same exact method but using "buzzbombs" instead.
Finally, Where you might ask? There are plenty of good options, some popular destinations worth a drive from the Interior would be the Vedder/Chilliwack , Squamish, Harrison, Chehalis and Fraser Rivers. Openings tend to change every year so be sure to check for all available freshwater salmon openings in region 2 here: https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/fresh-douce/region2-eng.html
Well that about sums it up for our brief intro to Pink fishing, there really isn't' a whole lot to it, if your timing is right there should be little in the way of preventing you from catching some salmon and having some fun. Please handle your fish with care and know how to properly identify your fish before heading out and please don't drag a fish you intend to release onto shore, keep them in the water.
Good Luck out there Everyone, Cheers and Tight Lines!