Pink Salmon

Local Streams

Pink salmon are increasing in numbers and colonizing new river systems, including the Nisqually River.  They typically return on odd numbered years to Washington state rivers.

Pink Salmon
(Oncorhynchus gorbuscha)

Other names: humpy, humpback salmon Average size: 3-5 lbs., up to 12 lbs.

Spawning - Pinks use the lower reaches of large rivers and some tributaries, often very close to saltwater. Because their fry move directly to sea after emerging, the closer they spawn to saltwater the better. The shorter journey reduces predation and increases survival. Sometimes pink salmon spawn right in saltwater, avoiding freshwater altogether.

Pinks have a very regular life history, living for nearly two years in salt water before returning to spawn the next generation. This is why pink runs in Washington only occur every other year; there are no one-year-old or threeyear-old fish to establish runs in the other years.

Rearing - As mentioned, pink fry do not rear in freshwater. Immediately after emerging, they move downstream to the estuary and rear there for several months before heading out to the open ocean. Because of this, pink fry have no spots (parr marks), which provide camouflage for other species in streams, but are bright chrome and ready for open water.

Source:  Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife at
Photo credit:  Copyright.  Used with permission from Fisheries and Oceans Canada