I was sitting in my office cubicle a few weeks ago when someone grabbed me to come look at a “weird” fish in the Sitcum Waterway. A small crowd had started to form by the time I made it outside and as I approached, I heard lots of bewildered chatter. At one point I even heard someone say “alligator”! When I looked over the edge, I saw a large humpback emerging from the water. A humpback salmon that is!
Pink salmon are also called “humpys” or humpbacks because during the breeding season males develop a hump on their back. The larger the hump, the greater chance the male has of attracting a female and successfully spawning.
Like all Pacific salmon, pink salmon hatch in freshwater streams and rivers then migrate to saltwater to feed and grow. Unlike other species, pinks don’t stick around in freshwater. They quickly migrate to the ocean where they grow rapidly. After about a year and a half pink salmon return to the fresh water where they were born to spawn. Here in the Puget Sound, populations predominantly spawn in odd years from August to October.
The humpback salmon we saw in the Sitcum Waterway made a wrong turn on his way back to the Puyallup River. We watched him swim to the head of the Sitcum Waterway before returning to Commencement Bay where I hope he found his way back to his natal stream to impress some ladies.
Click here for a list of locations where you can see salmon in your neighborhood.