2009 Pink Salmon Frenzy - Part II

By Terry Wiest

Originally Published in the August 2009 issue of Northwest Sportman Magazine

Northwest Sportsman Magazine

If you think fishing for Pink Salmon in the salt was fun, just wait until September when they start entering the rivers. Oh my! This is going to be an absolute blast and there's going to be plenty of fish to go around.

You've already seen how easy it is to find 1.6 million pink salmon in the South Sound (the amount forecast to return to the Green River and Puyallup Rivers in 2009), now try and imagine those same fish entering the rivers where you can literally cast across the river at any point. It's hard not to imagine that you won't be able to locate and target these fish.

Entering the rivers you can start to see how Pink Salmon got their "other" nickname, humpies. The males start to get, and continue to grow, a very prominent hump on their backs. They get down right ugly looking, but who cares, we're out to have fun catching them.

Spawning instincts hit hard once these fish enter the rivers and they become extremely aggressive, a definite plus for us fishermen. While other species tend to get lock jaw while on the last stages of their journey, Pinks become almost over aggressive and given the right presentation they're almost certain to put a smack down on your lure.

River fishing for Pinks and Dick Nites in my opinion are synonymous. THE absolute number one method to catch pink salmon is without a doubt using a #1 50/50 Dick Nite spoon…. Period! But just tying on a Dick Nite will not necessary guarantee fish, you still have to present it correctly.

Before we get too far, lets remember these are small fish with an average of 3 - 5 lbs, even with the hump. Use light gear and light rods to increase the fun and excitement when catching these very active fish. I like using a G. Loomis STR1082S spinning rod (9ft rated 6 -10lbs) with a Team Daiwa Fuego 2500 spinning reel loaded with 10lb test.

Let's also remember the WDFW has come out with a new rule this year on the Green River which reads:

"hook must measure ˝ inch or less from point to shank"

No problem complying with this rule when using a Dick Nite spoon.

There are several ways of presenting the Dick Nite, but here are my favorite methods which will consistently produce fish.

This first method I prefer when fishing in tidal water from bank, boat, bridge or pier, or in those spots on the river where there is little to no current. This would be under a float! Yes, a Dick Nite under a float. The Dick Nite by design is a flutter spoon, so you will need to add some weight to get in down where the fish are.

Here's what it looks like:

Add a bobber stop to the main line
Add a bead
Thread main line through a float (any kind of slip float)
Add a bead
Palomar Knot to 1/4oz inline weight
Clinch Knot to 8lb test 4ft leader
Improved Clinch Knot directly to #1 50/50 Dick Nite Spoon

In general you'll want the bobber stop 4 - 6ft above the inline weight. Cast out and reel in with a VERY SLOW retrieve. This will put the spoon right in the strike zone. It is very important that the spoon maintains a wobble and does not turn over. If the spoon turns over the retrieve is too fast and the spoon is not working properly. Fished correctly, this method is absolutely dead on and should account for numerous hookups each and every outing.

Different color Dick Nites will also work, especially pink, pink/white and frog colors.

The second method, and probably how most people with fish for Pinks with a Dick Nite, is the old tried and true drift fishing setup. In slower water (where most Pinks will be), use a three way swivel with a 6" - 10" dropper weight (1/4 to ˝ oz) then a 3ft - 6ft leader back to the Dick Nite. Let the presentation sweep through the hole as long as the spoon maintains a flutter. In faster water, the traditional steelhead drift setup with pencil lead will work fine, just remember the spoon must flutter to be presented properly. If the spoon is pulled to fast more than likely you will "floss" your fish. There is absolutely no reason to floss these fish as they are very aggressive and when your presentation is correct they will attack it.

The last way which I'll fish Dick Nites for Pinks is what I call the "Lazy Man's Method" which I personally get bored with, but it works and a lot of people will prefer this way of fishing. Plunking. Either from the bank or from an anchored boat, use the three way swivel setup as described above, but use enough weight so when you cast into the deepest part of the hole your presentation will sit there. The weight will hold the presentation while the current works the spoon. If fish are around you won't have to wait long and it will be fish on. Again, a proven method that will catch fish, I just prefer to be more active and not put the rod down.

I make no bones about my belief in the Dick Nite spoons for Pinks, but there are other methods that will also put up great numbers of fish on the bank or in the boat.

If the section of river you're fishing doesn't seem to have to high concentration of fish you were hoping to target, or for some reason they just don't seem to be on the bite, sometimes bait can be the ticket to encourage some more activity in the form of strikes.

One of my favorite methods to fish bait is to put a small section of cured prawn (died pink) on a jig head under a float. I'll fish this just like jig fishing for steelhead.

Another method which is equally affective is to plunk or cast from a boat a sand shrimp tail with a Mack's Lure Smile Blade in front of it. I prefer a pink Smile Blade but for some reason chartreuse also works great. Make sure and put a bead between the Smile Blade and the sand shrimp. What make's these blades so effective is that it takes a very small amount of current to turn these blades and will attract the Pinks.

When these methods don't seem to be what they're looking for, or if you just want to change up and try something new, twitching jigs or pink worms just might be what you're looking for, or better yet what the fish are. Cast out and let the jig or pink worm sink to the bottom. Give a little 6 - 10 inch "twitch" and real only a crank at a time. The fish will generally hit on the fall. This has been a very effective coho killer in recent years so don't be surprised if you get a little bonus when fishing this way.

The good folks at Silver Horde have also been working on a new lure for fishing pinks in the river, a weighted Ace Hi Jr. Fly! The pinks go crazy for an Ace Hi Jr. Fly in the salt, so it only makes sense to get a weighted version for twitchin in the rivers. These promise to be killer for coho and steelhead as well and I'll be "testing" them a whole lot this year. Pink of course being the go to color.

If you choose to keep any of your catch remember to bleed your fish immediately. Shortly after bleeding (5 minutes), clean your fish on the river and put it on ice. These fish began to loose their table fare quality almost instantly so take care of them and they'll be great on the BBQ or in the smoker. I highly recommend a Silver Horde Katch Kooler to carry on the bank with you with some ice in it. Thown over your shoulder you can pack your ice covered fish out and have some good eatin when you get home.

Remember there are a ton of Pinks returning this year, if you loose one, who cares, catch another! Above all, have fun.

Fishing for Pinks in the Salt


Terry Wiest
Steelhead University