Recreational Salmon Fishing
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Salmon/Steelhead Species Information

Pink (Humpy) Salmon

  • Mouth is white with a black gum line. 
  • In marine areas, almost no teeth
  • Large oval spots on both lobes of tail
  • Large black spots on back
  • Pointed lower jaw
  • No silver on tail
  • Very small scales

The mouth of a pink is white, but the gums and tongue are black, as they are in a chinook.  It does not have “teeth” on its tongue.

Pink (Humpy) Salmon Jaw

The pink salmon tail is covered with large oval spots.  It does not have silver on the tail.  The scales are very small compared to other salmon of the same size.

Pink (Humpy) Salmon Tail

Pink (Humpy) Salmon
Oncorhynchus gorbuscha

Other names: humpie, humpback salmon
Average size: 3-5 lbs, up to 12 lbs

Male pink salmon develop a large hump on their back during spawning, hence the nickname humpback salmon. This is the smallest of the fall-spawning Pacific salmon. In Washington, pink salmon runs only occur in odd-numbered years.

Spawning - Pinks use the mainstems of large rivers and some tributaries, often very close to saltwater. Because their fry move directly to sea after emerging, the closer they spawn to saltwater the better. The shorter journey reduces predation and increases survival. Sometimes pink salmon spawn right in saltwater, avoiding freshwater altogether.

Pink Salmon Spawning Phase

Pinks have a very regular life history, living for two years before returning to spawn the next generation. This is why pink runs in Washington only occur every other year; there are no one-year-old or three-year-old fish to establish runs in the other years.

Rearing - As mentioned, pink fry do not rear in freshwater. Immediately after emerging they move downstream to the estuary and rear there for several months before heading out to the open ocean. Because of this, pink fry have no spots, which provide camouflage in streams, but are bright chrome for open water.


Alevin - The lifestage of a salmonid between egg and fry. An alevin looks like a fish with a huge pot belly, which is the remaining egg sac. Alevin remain protected in the gravel riverbed, obtaining nutrition from the egg sac until they are large enough to fend for themselves in the stream.

Anadromous - Fish that live part or the majority of their lives in saltwater, but return to freshwater to spawn.

Emergence - The act of salmon fry leaving the gravel nest.

Fry - A juvenile salmonid that has absorbed its egg sac and is rearing in the stream; the stage of development between an alevin and a parr.

Kype - The hooked jaw many male salmon develop during spawning.

Parr - Also known as fingerling. A large juvenile salmonid, one between a fry and a smolt.

Smolt - A juvenile salmonid which has reared in-stream and is preparing to enter the ocean. Smolts exchange the spotted camouflage of the stream for the chrome of the ocean.

Substrate - The material which comprises a stream bottom.