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Pink Think

A refresher on what works for trolling up the oddyear salmon as millions upon millions move into Puget Sound.

By Terry Wiest

The dimunitive salmon provide thrills for anglers young and not-quite-asyoung alike ­ Ken Edwards, then 75, nabbed this quartet during 2009's run.


SEATTLE--It wasn't that long ago that pinks were almost considered a nuisance, pesky little salmon that quite honestly didn't live up to the culinary standards of their cousins, Chinook and coho. They didn't fight much and then there's their looks ­ the males grow a big ol' hump on their back after entering the rivers. So what's changed? Everything! First and foremost, while almost all other salmon runs are on the decline or holding at depressed levels, pinks are thriving in Puget Sound to the tune of a forecast of 6 million this summer. Compare that to around 200,000 kings and just under 1 million coho and you can see pinks will give us far more opportunities to put fish on the barbecue. And given the spawning conditions from 2009's mega return of 9 million, I'm going to predict an even stronger run this summer. My belief is that the biologists don't want to overestimate the pinks like they have so many times with other species and that they actually estimated a safe number. I'm looking for double-digit millions, with the largest numbers heading towards the Green and Snohomish systems, making the Central Sound extremely fishy. IN THIS DOWN ECONOMY, pinks are a great


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way to minimize expense and maximize the catch. They don't require huge amounts of gear, they're widely available and you'll be able to retain four a day in most saltwaters this year (there's a daily limit of two plus two bonus pinks ­ just make sure to check the regulations before you go). While the taste hasn't improved, they actually aren't as bad as people would have you believe when they are taken care of properly. This is a must: Immediately after deciding to keep a pink, you must cut its gills to bleed it out. After only a couple minutes,

pinks and always receive great reviews. Everyone loves smoked salmon. Or throw some fresh ones on the barbecue with some salt, pepper, garlic and sprinkle a little brown sugar the last few minutes and you'll have some happy campers. Like all fish, just don't overcook it. And the theory that they don't fight much depends on the gear you use. Go at them with a downrigger rod rated to 40 pounds, 30-pound test, 11-inch flasher and 5/0 hooks and guess what? Not much of a fight. But use a light rod, light line, small

fish finder or look at the beach. Confused? A fish finder should be a given ­ pinks run in big schools, and generally those on the screen at less than 60 feet are most likely pinks. Heck, if it's Chinook or coho, that'll only be a bonus! But looking at the beach? That's correct. When the pinks are in, the beaches along where the pinks travel will look like the Cowlitz River's combat fishery at Blue Creek. Pinks tend to travel the flats, so fishing from the beaches can produce big numbers of fish and will give an appearance of a

Among the array of tackle that works for Puget pinks, one of the simplest, most effective rigs ­ put together here by a very pinked-out Bry Zimmerman of ­ is a pink mini hoochie or pink spoon behind a white/pink spatterback dodger. (TERRY WIEST, SALMONUNIVERSITY.COM)

clean the fish and put it on ice to cool the meat down as quickly as possible. I put mine in a KatchKooler and use one side for cooling down fish and the other side to put the fish once they've been on ice for a while. Don't let ice sit in the cavity too long and melt as the flesh will become mushy. And while Puget Sound stays cool in summer, don't be the guy trailing a stringer of pinks behind his boat because either A) the fish will become mushy, or B) seal food as this is an easy target for them. I've given away many of smoked

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dodger and smaller hooks and they become an absolute blast. One thing hasn't changed: They still get ugly in the rivers. They are, after all, called humpies. Do we care? Heck no! Still funner than heck and we can always release them. But here we'll concentrate on catching them in the salt ­ no humps allowed.

FROM NOW ­ late July/early August ­ through the beginning of September, pinks will be entering Puget Sound in droves. They won't be hard to locate ­ all you have to do is either use your

tsunami with hundreds if not thousands grouped together in a school. Most shore anglers will be using Buzz Bombs ­ in pink, of course ­ but don't forget about twitching jigs or throwing a Dick Nite under a weighted float since they're so light. Your best bet from a boat is going to be trolling very slowly with a downrigger so you can control your presentation's depth. From just below the surface down to about 60 feet is generally a good target area until the sun comes out and it warms up. Then the fish may go down as deep as 100

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feet or more. I'd use 20-pound mono for mainline just in case you happen to tie into a Chinook as we don't want to lose our dodger or flasher. Stagger your different presentations until there's a fish on, then make a wall of death by putting all the gear at the same depth and the same distance behind the downrigger ball. The standard trolling setup ­ a slow trolling setup, mind you ­ is a white flasher or dodger and a pink hoochie, or plastic squid, about 15 feet behind the release clip. If you don't have a downrigger, a diver or banana weight will work just fine. Just look at your line angle and count the pulls how far you go down. If you don't count the pulls, how will you get back to the same depth and have everyone in the boat there too? Your line angle should be approximately at 80 degrees, which means your speed will be just fast enough to make the dodger sway back and forth. The more presentations at the correct depth, the better the chance of everyone hooking up, and if you're lucky, all at once to make it really fun. My go-to setup consists of a white/pink spatterback dodger and a pink mini hoochie or Jr. Ace Hi Fly. I'll use a 16- to 18-inch-long, 40-pound leader. Why 40-pound test? It's for the action and has nothing to do with the size of fish. The hoochie itself displays no action and is totally reliant on the dodger. As the dodger sways back and forth you want the hoochie to do the same. The stiffer the line, the more action it imparts. A little trick you can try here if you're not getting the action you want is to smile ­ that is, add a Smile blade in front of your hoochie. The Mack's Lures product requires almost no resistance to spin and create enough action to catch a fish's attention. If you're going to use a flasher, no problem, but don't use it in the tradi-

tional fashion. In order for one to work properly for other species of salmon, you want to troll fast enough so that it rotates completely around and the lure follows. This is too fast for most pinks. You'll just want the flasher to sway back and forth, like a dodger. Hook size? Up to you as the fish don't know the difference. A 2/0 works great. Again make sure and check the regulations as there are some size (and barbless) hook restrictions in certain areas.

WHAT ELSE WORKS? Just about anything

pink! Try various spoons like Kingfisher Lites, Coyotes or the new UV Magic Imperial Spoon with or without a dodger/flasher. Also cast pink jigs, Buzz Bombs, even Dick Nites ­ although I'd save the last for the flats in less than 20 feet of water. Want to use herring? Turn them pink with Bad Azz dye, or brine the bait with Atlas-Mike's Brite & Tight. These fish aren't called pinks for no reason, so remember the color! It's a good idea to use scent. Shrimp Smelly Jelly and Special Mix work really good. Another little trick is to add just a touch of Pautzke Krill to your scent. Pink's diet generally consists of shrimp and krill, so the reasoning here should be clear. I've mentioned trolling slow a couple of times, but troll even slower than that. If you've fished for sockeye in Lake Washington, that's the slow I'm talking about. In many instances you can drift with the tide as long as the dodger is swaying back and forth and maintaining a horizontal position. One last point: Troll with the tide. At the end of a run, pull up and start again ­ don't waste an hour or more trying to troll against the tide while getting nowhere. If you have enough room, zigzag your trolling pattern. The change in the speed from the zig or zag will often produce a strike. It's going to be another fantastic pink year ­ go get 'em. NS

44 Northwest Sportsman AUGUST 2011


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