Randy Dayton landed 33 pink salmon in an hour and a half as he flipped for red salmon at Centennial Park in Soldotna.
During the short time that it took him to explain that he had come up from Meridian, Idaho for eight weeks of fishing and hadn’t landed a sockeye yet during his Wednesday of fishing, his pink number hit 39.
“I prefer to eat sockeye,” he said.
The sentiment was echoed by several other anglers along the Kenai River shoreline as many of them landed a large volume of pink salmon — but not much else.
Pink salmon, or humpies, are both the smallest and the most numerous of Pacific salmon and while commercial catches of the fish support many Alaska coastal fishing communities — they’re not the most sought after fish in the Kenai River.
By most reports they’re easy to catch and will strike at almost anything.
Dayton fished with a bit of yarn on his hook and had no trouble catching and landing the prolific salmon.
But, he said, they’re a little fishy tasting by the time they get up to Soldotna in the Kenai River and that might be part of the reason inriver sport-anglers tend to eschew them for sockeye or coho salmon.
While the fish are in their prime in the saltwater, pale pink and lightly flavored — once they hit the freshwater, their physiological changes happen quickly.
The bright silver and green-tinted fish starts to turn a dingy brown or black and large black spots appear on their bodies. Males develop a hooked jaw and hump.
Some prefer to catch their fish in the saltwater, or failing that, buy them from a local setnet fisherman with a catcher-processor permit.
Gary Hollier, a setnetter whose sites are near the Kenai River said people often buy their pink salmon commercially.
“At 28 cents a pound, they’re a good, cheap, quality product from the ocean,” he said. “They’re just a softer fish.”
Hollier said he ate a lot of pink salmon growing up, though he prefers sockeye or king salmon to the prolific fish.
But, he said, it’s hard to beat a price of a pink.
“If you take a 4-pound pink salmon, you’ll get two 2-pound fillets,” he said. “Where else are you going to get protein like that for less than $1 a pound?”
At least two people on the Kenai River were willing to experiment with a pink salmon.
Todd Boise and Kelly Boise, of Pennsylvania, said they caught several Tuesday and decided to keep one.
The two have been fishing in the area for a couple of years and said they come up catch fish and visit family.
“It’s experimental,” Kelly Boise said. “We’ve never had pinks, so we’re going to try it.”
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org