Pink SalmonFor all the salmon stocking that Michigan has done in the Great Lakes for more than 40 years, one of the most unusual salmon fisheries in the state is a result of a happy accident. Back in the 1950s, pink salmon that were being raised in a Canadian hatchery and were destined for Hudson Bay wound up in a Lake Superior tributary. They quickly dispersed throughout the Great Lakes, but they especially established themselves in Lake Huron.
Pink salmon head upstream like other Pacific salmon to spawn and although they ordinarily spawn every two years, enough pinks migrated upstream either as precocious one-year-olds or as three-year-olds that annual spawning runs have now been established, though the largest runs occur during odd-numbered years. Although they are occasionally taken in the streams inland of Lake Superior, the best runs are in Lake Huron tributaries, in the Carp River in the southeastern Upper Peninsula and the St. Marys River. Unlike other Pacific salmon, the population of pinks does not seem to have been impacted by the decline in alewife numbers in Lake Huron.
Pinks can be taken by the same techniques used to take other Pacific salmon, though in the streams they are typically pursued by casting spoons or spinners or with fly fishing gear. Streamers and nymphs account for the bulk of the pinks taken in the St. Marys rapids, the most outstanding pink salmon fishery this side of Alaska. Anglers trolling with downriggers or jigging with spoons catch appreciable numbers or pink salmon in the deeper waters of the St. Marys in the weeks before the fish make their way into the rapids.
Male pink salmon develop hooked jaws like other salmon and trout, but also feature distinctive humped backs. The smallest of the Pacific salmon found in the Great Lakes, pinks typically weigh in the three-pound range as adults, though the state record is better than eight pounds. The largest specimens are often caught during even-numbered years.
For more information on identifying characteristics for pink salmon see our fish ID page.