A DAILY LIMIT catch of four prime pinks taken on a fly rod.

Pink salmon – small but special

Local waters enjoying big runs of these feisty little fighters

We are currently in the middle of a large run of pink salmon in many of the systems in the Strait of Georgia. Pictured with this column is a daily limit catch of four prime pinks taken on a fly rod. They are the norm for those anglers fishing our river systems.

Pinks are feisty fighters that give a good account of themselves on light tackle. Pinks are among the first salmon to hit our beaches before going up their natal streams. Savvy beach anglers start patrolling the beaches early in the morning on a receding tide for tell-tale signs of schools of migrating pinks swimming in the shallows.

In calm waters you look for the bow wave ahead of a moving school of fish, or locate them by observing jumpers along the beach. They create a dream situation for casters of all types, especially fly fishers who cast their fly just ahead of the moving school of fish and wait for the pulse of a take – it is the stuff of legends.

In a year of low water, schooling pinks off their natal streams are easy targets for wading anglers and harbour seals. With the current low water situation the fish may be forced to stay off the mouths of home streams until seasonal rains bring life-saving waters, creating passages for the waiting salmon to enter their natal rivers to complete their spawning run.

Pink salmon are not large by salmon standards, they average three to four pounds with occasional individuals weighing in at eight or nine pounds.

In many respects they are the perfect one-meal fish for a family. They smoke well and are excellent fish for canning. Properly handled they are nice fish for freezing in small family packages, depending on the size of your family.

In the Comox Valley there are many seniors who use small portions when freezing fish for obvious reasons and these small tasty salmon make excellent freezer packages. Their pale pink flesh just plain has an excellent flavour making them popular choices for barbecuing, baking, frying or any other way you choose to utilize this bonanza of pink salmon. They also make excellent fish for canning in small salmon jars.

For anglers who troll pinks, they are normally in the upper portion of the water column at about 50 feet, plus or minus. The pink flies used in fishing sockeye will work well fished about 25 to 30 inches behind red or green flashers. Small pink hoochies, lures, streamers, bucktails are successful choices when staring to fish these tasty fish. It is a strange connection when, lures and flies that work well on pink salmon are by and large pink in colour.

Young people who have limited resources to spend on fishing rods and tackle find pinks to be easy to catch along the beaches and in our rivers with modest equipment. A pair of old running shoes for the beach, some shorts and sunscreen and you are ready to go fishing. No boat or expensive wading gear is needed for these summer salmon.

During the 2013 season the Campbell River system had an  unusually large run of pink salmon. The 2014 run of pinks is significantly larger than the run of last year. The run is so large that they have opened the upper section of the river above the Quinsam River to retention of four pinks in the fly-fishing waters that are normally a catch and release fishery.

There are tens of thousands of pink salmon throughout the system. I saw a photograph of the pool at the diversion dam and it was so full of fish you could almost walk across the water on the backs of fish.

I spoke to a happy camper who had got up early in the morning, drove up to the Campbell and caught his four salmon before his family was up. As we spoke he was getting them ready for his camp smoker as a special BC Day treat.

For campers in the Oyster River and Black Creek area the mouth of the Oyster is producing good catches from the beach. Beaches at Cape Lazo and the approaches to the Puntledge including Royston are good places to take schooling pinks. The hot dry weather will keep them near the beaches. Let’s enjoy the bounty from our local Ocean waters.


Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.



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