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While most salmon fishermen are focused on catching king salmon or coho salmon, pink salmon can be just as much fun to catch if you use lighter tackle and the correct lure. They congregate in bays and swim upriver in great numbers during the spawning season, which makes catching them a feeding frenzy if you’re in the right place at the right time. But what are the best pink salmon lures to use when it’s pink salmon season?
You’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll go over the best pink salmon lures for all situations. Whether you like to troll for pink salmon or cast spinners for them, we’ve got you covered. We’ll also quickly go over how to identify pink salmon, where you can catch them, and the proper tackle you should use. Soon you’ll be prepared to catch your limit of pink salmon no matter where you fish for them!
Best Pink Salmon Lures
How to Identify Pink Salmon
Pink salmon are smaller than most other species and can be identified by silvery-white sides and pale grey backs. They only grow to 5 lbs at maturation, which is much smaller than most other salmon species. During the spawning season, the males develop a large hump in their back which is where their nickname “humpies” comes from.
Pink salmon feed on plankton, small crustaceans, and baitfish while in the ocean. They live to be two years old before returning the freshwater to spawn. This means that in many locations, pink salmon spawn every other year. In the Northwest states of Oregon and Washington, this is every odd year.
Where Can I Catch Pink Salmon?
Pink salmon live throughout the pacific coastal waters, ranging from California up to Alaska. They also live around the coasts of Japan and Siberia. While they can be caught offshore while they’re feeding in the ocean, pink salmon are best targeted while fishing for them in rivers and bays during their spawning season. During this period they’ll be the largest and most abundant due to their spawning migration. This occurs between June and mid-October depending on the fishery. The farther north you go, the earlier their spawning season.
What Tackle Should I Use for Pink Salmon?
We recommend using medium-light tackle when fishing for pink salmon. Since they usually inhabit relatively shallow water during the spawning season, spinning rods and reels will work best. Get a medium-sized saltwater spinning reel paired with a medium casting rod. This will keep catching the smaller pink salmon fun but won’t risk losing a larger coho or king salmon you might catch by accident.
For pink salmon fishing line, we recommend using 12 to 15 lb braided line. Braided line at this test will be extra thin and help with casting. We also like the added responsiveness of braided line compared to monofilament. While the test might be overkill for most pink salmon, we want to be prepared for the occasional pink salmon over 10 lbs or a coho/king salmon that takes your lure.
Best Pink Salmon Lures for Casting
Casting for pink salmon is our favorite way to catch them. The strikes are intense and it gives you the most flexibility of switching locations. We’ve found that many types of lures work well for pink salmon when casting, but there are several that stand out. The best pink salmon lures for casting are Marabou Twitch jigs, PLine Lazer Minnows, and Buzz Bombs all in pink.
Cast your lure in front of where the pink salmon are swimming and try and retrieve it directly through a school. This technique works well in both the early and late spawning season. You want to irritate the pink salmon into striking, as they often won’t be feeding anymore.
Another approach is to drift fish with a bobber. Use a cork and yarn or Marabou Twitch jig with a 24” to 48” leader between the lure and the bobber. Cast your lure upstream from the pink salmon and let it drift through them. This lure also is great for Dolly Varden.
A similar approach works well with a salmon bead rig and roe bait later in the spawning season. Male pink salmon become very territorial later in the spawning season and will ash out at salmon eggs that gett to close to them. Cast your bait as close as you can to the fish and wait for a bite.
Best Pink Salmon Lures for Trolling
Trolling for pink salmon also works well in both the early and late spawning season. In the early season, the best pink salmon lures are Dick Nite spoons and small hoochie squids. As with casting lures, pink salmon prefer going after pink lures. Tie them 13 to 16 inches behind a medium-sized flasher. We recommend using a downrigger while trolling your lures at 20 to 30 ft.
If you don’t have a downrigger, however, you can get away with using an 8 oz sinker attached to your line 3 feet ahead of your flasher and lure rig. And don’t forget to mask any foreign smells with a fish scent like Smelly Jelly. Troll your lures slowly! We like trolling at 1 to 2 mph max. Another option once you’ve identified a school of pink salmon close to the surface is to skip the downriggers and weight completely and troll at the surface. Aggressive pink salmon will strike at surface lures with vigor.
Later in the spawning season, you should switch to back trolling further upriver. As far as late-season pink salmon trolling lures, we recommend switching to salmon roe and salmon bead rigs. Both work well in agitating aggressive pink salmon into biting.
Best Pink Salmon Lures for Jigging
Another less common technique for catching pink salmon early in the salmon is jigging for them. The best lures for jigging for pink salmon are pink color Buzz Bombs and Crippled herrings in ¼ or ½ oz sizes. First find where the pink salmon are schooling with your fish finder, them pull your boat within ~30 feet of where they’re swimming.
Cast the above pink salmon lures out into the school and wait several seconds for the lures to sink down to where they are. Then begin retrieving by jerking your rod up several feet and letting the lure settle back down. Reel in about 6 feet of your line each time you do this to imitate a wounded baitfish.
What pink salmon don’t have in size, they make up for in tenacity and numbers. It’s not uncommon for us to have 2 or 3 pink salmon on at a time when we find a school that’s biting. We hope after reading this article, you now know the best pink salmon lures for all situations. Have another type of lure that works well for pink salmon we didn’t list? Let us know about it in the comments below.