“Invented” fish are nothing new. In the early 1960s Washington State fishery managers thought if they could get chum and pink salmon (humpies) to breed they’d come up with a new type of Pacific salmon that would combine the best qualities of both.
“A ‘chumpie’ is a cross between a humpie (pink) and a chum, the latter — though delicious in flavor — is less desirable of the five species because of its color which does not stir one’s appetite like the red, medium-red and pink salmon.”
Back then as now, the rule in the commercial salmon market is the redder the fish, the higher the price. Because pinks only spawn on odd years the biologists hoped that combining the two would create a new salmon with pink flesh that runs every year.
By October 1963, National Fisherman reported that developments were promising. Two years earlier, 155,000 chum males and pink females had been released from Hoodsport Hatchery on Hood Canal. Returns of around 5 to 6 percent were very good. It looked like the new hybrid species were among them:
“A number, identified as the new hybrid, have been taken on lures [unlike chums, which rarely take a lure]and are reported to be stronger and put up a better fight than the humpie (pink). They also run slightly larger, and the flesh has a darker color than the pink.”
Despite those promising beginnings chumpies obviously never fulfilled their goal of becoming a new type of commercial species. It’s likely the hybrid — like other hybrids — was sterile.
One of my favorite parts of working for National Fisherman is the historic perspective provided by back issues of the magazine, which go back more than 75 years. As the controversy about genetically modified salmon shows, we’re still trying to tamper with nature to create something more convenient for us.
Though I’ve met a few chumps but never a chumpie, it is apparently possible. A quick Google search reveals a couple mentions of the hybrids in angler forums. I’m curious, if this is true, have any of our salmon fishermen readers caught one? What did you sell it as?
*A quick note about the illustration: At least for now, the fish pictured here does not exist in nature or in the lab. It is a mishmash of a wolffish and chinook put together as an imaginative depiction of a hybrid by Laura Dobson using illustrations from the Seafood Handbook published by SeaFood Business magazine.