Pink Salmon

a pink salmon in ocean coloring on a white background
Pink salmon in ocean coloration.
Photo: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

(Oncorhynchus gorbuscha)

Other names: Humpy, Humpback Salmon

The pink salmon is the smallest of the Pacific salmon found in park waters with an average weight of about 3.5 to 4 pounds and an average length of 14-24 inches. Pink salmon can be distinguished from other Pacific salmon by their small scales and large black spots on the dorsal surface and caudal fin. The common name comes from the characteristic humped back developed by spawning males.

detail on the head and tail of a pink salmon
Distinguishing features of pink salmon head and tail. Note the small scales and large spots.
Photo: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Abundance, distribution, and natural history

453 total records (all life stages) exist for this species of which 73% provide spawning fish abundance information. There are 83 unique streams in which spawning pinks have been documented. This species is the most abundant of all Pacific salmon species both in the park and preserve and throughout the North Pacific. Most park stream systems likely have a run of pink salmon. Pinks or humpies have a fixed two year life span that has lead to reproductive and genetic isolation between even and odd year runs in many river systems. Odd year runs are the most productive throughout Southeast Alaska although some streams are an exception to this generality. Pink salmon have been reported in Glacier Bay streams from June to October. However, most fish occur during July through September with peak spawning fish abundance occurring during August. When fry emerge from the gravel in the spring they migrate immediately to salt water, similar to chum salmon. Therefore, few juvenile records also exist for this species.

two pink salmon in spawning coloration swim in dark waters
Female (foreground) and male (background) pink salmon in spawning coloration.
Photo: E.R. Keeley, USGS

Conservation measures and concerns

There are currently no special regulations or management concerns for pink salmon within the park or preserve. The wide distribution, prolific runs, and low angling effort for this species account for the low level of concern. Pink salmon are the least commercially valuable species due to their high abundance, low meat oil content, and small fillet size, fetching a much lower price per pound than other species. Pink salmon are caught in huge numbers in seine and troll fisheries for canning, fish meal, and commercial fishing bait. Dead spawned out pink salmon add a tremendous amount of nutrients, mostly carbon and nitrogen, annually to stream and riparian habitats. Spawning and spawned out fish are an important food source for a wide variety of terrestrial mammals and avian predators. Low or high returns of this species can greatly influence habitat productivity.

a graph depicting the spawning run times of pink salmon in Glacier Bay. The highest fish abundance was recorded in August.
Relative (averaged across records) pink salmon run timing . Values in parenthesis indicate number of records for each month (total n= 327).

Last updated: February 8, 2018

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Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
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Gustavus , AK 99826


907 697-2230

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