Herring makes a great bait for a number of fish, especially salmon. You don't just grab a frozen herring, stick a hook in it and hope for the best. Several preparatory techniques, outlined at the Salmon University website, help make the herring bait most effective.
Brining the herring makes it firm. This way it can hold up more easily to being cut and plugged. It can also last for up to a week once brined. There are several recipes for brining herring, and an easy one includes a large cooler and a few easy-to-obtain ingredients. Fill the cooler with one gallon of water that has no chlorine. Mix in 2 tbsp. liquid bluing to brighten the skin and scales. Add four cups of salt, which can be any type as long as it doesn't contain iodine, and one cup of powdered milk to further firm the fish. Add extra scents with a bit of garlic oil or anise oil. Soak the fish overnight.
Cutting and Rigging
Once the herrings are brined, you want to plug them. Cut off their heads with a very sharp knife angled toward the back of the fish. Use a 45 degree angle and use a single, swift cut that leaves no jagged edges. Carefully scrape out the entrails through the top of the fish, making sure to leave the outside of the fish intact. Stick the leader's trailing hook through the side of the fish, pulling it completely through the skin and still attached to the line. Stick the leader's top hook through the top of the fish near the spine. Leave the hook inserted through the fish.
The size hook you use depends on the size herring you have. Use 1/0 hooks for the smaller herring that measures no more than 3 1/2 inches in length. For 4-inch herrings, use a 2/0 hook; 5-inch herrings, a 3/0 hook; 6 to 7 inches, a 4/0 hook; 8 to 9 inches, a 5/0 hook; and 10 inches, a 6/0 hook.
Store any unused herrings in an airtight bag or jar in the refrigerator. Store them after you've cut them but before you insert the hooks. Leave some fluid in the bag or jar so the fish can soak and retain a strong odor.
Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.