Pink Salmon prefer cold water, native to Pacific and Arctic coasts and reaching as far south as Japan and the Sacramento River in northern California. Lake Superior and Lake Michigan are the only entirely fresh water places into which this species has been successfully introduced. Populations in California and Washington have grown extremely weak, but this fish continues to thrive in Alaska and British Columbia.
Adult Pinks approaching coastal waters are steely blue on top with silvery sides and large black spots along the back and entire tail fin. As spawning looms the male’s coloration becomes extremely muted, shading to brown and black above with a white belly. Females turn dark green and gain dusky bars and patches on top, leaving a lighter hued belly. Average length of these smaller salmon approaches two feet and their weight hovers between three and four pounds. The record for largest Pink Salmon is 13 pounds, one ounce, caught from St. Mary’s River in Ontario, Canada.
Pink Salmon have a much shorter lifespan than their cousins, surviving for only approximately two years. This is the main reason for their abbreviated growth. They will be carnivorous, like other salmon, but prefer to snack on smaller baitfish. Diet for juvenile salmon includes insects, plankton, and larval fishes. The backs of males develop pronounced humps during spawning migration, giving them their nickname. They are also unique, returning to spawn every other year: even-numbered years in the north and odd-numbered in the southern end of their range. This species spawns in coastal streams and longer rivers, between late June and mid-October. Annual harvests in Alaskan fisheries average over 100 million Pinks, to be canned, smoked or salted; their roe is particularly valuable as Asian caviar.
Though smaller than any other Pacific salmon Pinks nonetheless put up an extremely tough battle when hooked. They are also more abundant, even to the point that most anglers in southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia won’t be bothered to fish for them. This only leaves more of this tasty, light, pink (when properly prepared) meat for the rest of us.