Salmon Species‎ > ‎

Pink Salmon

Oncorhynchus gorbuscha
Pink salmon are also known as humpy salmon.

Description:  Pink salmon are the smallest of the 5 Pacific salmon species found locally.  In length, they can reach up to 30 inches and usually weigh between 3 to 5 pounds.  While at sea, pink salmon are silvery on the sides and have blue backs with large, oval-shaped spots on their backs and tails.  After returning to the freshwater to spawn, a pink stripe along the lateral line can be found on both males and females.  Males, however, also develop a conspicuous hump on their backs, earning this species its colloquial name: “humpy”.

Range: In Asia from North Korea to the Lena River on the East Siberian Sea; in North America from the Sacramento River to the Mackenzie River on the Beaufort Sea.  Introduced to Chile, the Great Lakes, Newfoundland, and rivers along the Black, Baltic, White and Barents seas of northern Europe and northwestern Asia.


Abundance: Most abundant of the Pacific salmon.

Life History:  Pink salmon are known for their rigid 2 year life cycle.  They move quickly out of the river shortly after emergence from the redd and spend the first summer and winter relatively close to shore in the ocean.  During their second summer their homeward migration begins.  Since runs of pink salmon only occur every 2 years, this results in either an odd year or an even year cycle and genetically isolates each populationOdd year runs are by far the most common in Puget Sound. 

Spawning Season: July to September. 

Habitat Requirements: Generally, pinks spawn closer to the sea than other salmon species; their life cycle involves the least dependence on freshwater environments of any of the Pacific salmon. 

In Our Local Watersheds:  Pink salmon are the most abundant of the Pacific salmon species in the Nooksack River basin; there are runs of pink salmon in all three forks of the Nooksack River, as well in their tributary streams and several independent stream basins throughout Whatcom County.  Currently, the pink salmon population in the Nooksack River basin is considered to be healthy.

Did You Know?

In 2001 a Washington angler caught the world record pink salmon.  This fish weighed in at 14.49 lbs.!

For more information on Whatcom County's pink salmon click here.