Fish as seen in saltwater.

The smallest of BC’s Pacific salmon, Pink salmon are also populous and the least vulnerable to extinction. They weigh from three to 11 pounds, and measure 18 to 24 inches long.

They exhibit the least dependence on freshwater, starting immediately for the ocean upon emerging from their redds (redds are the nests where salmon get their start). Because of their small size, they are especially likely to travel in schools for protection. Pink salmon have the shortest lifespans of Pacific salmon: two years. They return to freshwater to spawn either in even or odd years; those that return in even years are genetically distinct from those returning in odd years.

Pink salmon don’t just have to deal with the regular slew of Pacific salmon predators; they are also preyed on by Coho salmon and Cutthroat trout.

Spotting a Pink

Small size and relatively rounded shape is one sure indicator of a Pink; but male Pinks are especially recognizable  just before and during spawning. They develop a huge hump in front of the dorsal fin; and like Chum, their snouts hook sharply downward while their lower jaws swell to the point of preventing their mouths from closing. (Breeding females, like females of so many other species, salmon or otherwise, don’t change appearance very much). During non-spawning times, Pink salmon are blue-green with black dots along the back and silvery sides.

Habits and Habitat

Pink salmon prefer colder waters. The Atlas of Pacific Salmon (University of California Press: 2005) notes that populations have been found as far north and west as Russia’s Lena River. In North America, they run as far south as Puget Sound and as far north as the Mackenzie River.

Upon leaving their redds, Pink make a beeline for the ocean, where they mature and grow the fastest of Pacific salmon. If they can’t reach an estuary the first night, they dive into the gravel to hide from their numerous predators. Pinks are more likely to be found in northern waters during even-numbered years and more abundant in southern waters in odd-numbered years.

Other Facts About Pinks:

  • Sportfishers respect the small but mighty Pink, admiring its pluck and fight on light tackle.
  • Pinks may not be able to feed on other salmon, but they do strike herring when they can.
  • Pink salmon flesh is, as one might expect, pink, but also quite light and lacking much orange. It is delicate in texture and flavour and low in oil.