“Why sports anglers need Pink salmon”
By Jason Brooks
For salmon fisherman in the Pacific Northwest we know 2015 as a “Humpy Year” and this year’s return of the feisty small salmon has been estimated to be around 6.8 million fish. For some this is great news, others aren’t so excited as they fight their way through schools of Pink salmon to get to their targeted Chinook or Coho. Regardless if you are one of the many who think the fish can’t get here fast enough or are in the group that just can’t wait until October when the fish will be gone and the Silvers and Kings will be ready for the egg bite in our rivers, we as sport fisherman need the Pink salmon and here is why.
Simple economics tells us that demand is dependent on supply. If the supply is low then the return is limited. When the supply is abundant then the return is increased such as the big box chain stores that sell a lot of goods at a lower price and make huge profits in volumes. When the Pink salmon are running then it’s a sales “boom” of tackle, gas, boats, permits, licenses, camping spots, and such that drives the 1.1 Billion dollar fishing industry in Washington. Pink salmon are worth a lot of money to a lot of people in Washington and with budget cutbacks and reduced spending being “trendy terms” with our state law makers 2015 is not an “odd” year but a “welcomed” year for the small business owners in our state that rely on fishing as a way of making a living.
Besides the “all mighty dollar” Pink salmon offer much more to the sports angler. Thoreau is often quoted with “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not the fish they are after”. Experienced anglers often seek solitude and a quarry that is more challenging, offering peace and tranquility but it is a long road to get to that point in one’s fishing career. Let’s face it we started fishing and became addicted because we like to catch fish. This is the one thing all anglers have in common. Whether you like to pursue wild steelhead in pristine snow covered mountain streams, crappie in old farm ponds or tuna in the deep blue ocean, we strive to catch fish and when catching one isn’t enough we seek to catch more in other places. Pink salmon provide an opportunity for both the seasoned angler to just get out and catch a lot of fish for a “quick fix” as well as introduce new anglers to the world of fishing.
Each year the Pink salmon return I make it a point to take out at least one person who has never fished before. This year I already have four co-workers and two neighbors wanting me to take them fishing. That is six more anglers buying license’s, tackle and gear who will in turn hopefully teach others to fish. Because of the Pink salmon’s overwhelming returns I know I can take them out and they will catch a lot of fish. Much like planter trout during the yearly spring opener that caused my addiction, the Pink salmon can be used as a catalyst to gain newcomers to our sport. Pink salmon help bond family relationships where in today’s world kids are more apt to play a fishing game on their x-box or I-pod than to actually pick up a rod and learn to cast a line.
Lastly, we like to catch them! Looking through WDFW Sport Catch Reports for 2011’s return, “A total of 318,894 salmon were caught in marine areas, and 572,283 salmon were caught in freshwater. The marine totals by species,… are: 60,902 chinook; 101,573 coho; 2,051 chum; 153,602 pink; 293 sockeye; and 472 jacks (all species combined). Freshwater species breakdowns are: 121,589 chinook; 91,670 coho; 14,434 chum; 316,051 pink; 12,307 sockeye; 31,931 jacks (all species combined).” This shows that anglers caught twice as many Pink salmon than the revered Chinook in the salt and almost three times as many in freshwater! Even if you consider yourself a “fish snob” as my hunting partner from Eastern Washington calls me when I catch and release Pinks to try and get my Coho portion of my daily limit, we still like catching fish, even if they are Pink salmon.
As the run starts to build and reports of Pink salmon slowly making their way into Puget Sound and heading to our local rivers it is okay to get excited. While shopping at the local sporting goods store or even the “one stop shopping” big box stores go ahead and grab a few packages of pink jigs at the endcap; which was put in place since June as the stores anticipated the humpy return. My son Ryan, who is 9 and just got a new pair of waders, tells me every day that he just can’t wait to go fish the Puyallup River for Pinks. Because I am taking the time and making the effort to take him out now, when he is 19 I know he will be in our drift boat, rowing me down my favorite steelhead stream on the Olympic Peninsula. And as the snow slowly falls and the cold chills are almost unbearable he won’t complain as he will be addicted to fishing, just like me. This is why we need Pink salmon.