It’s that time of the year to get out your Sabiki rigs. Pacific herring have made their first annual appearance in Crescent City Harbor.
Jigging for herring is an absolute blast. It’s a great way to introduce the youth to fishing because the action can be fast and furious. You won’t find any bored kids partaking in this activity.
Anglers use Sabiki rigs, which contain six hooks, attach a small cannonball sinker ranging from 1/2 to 1 ounce to the bottom of the rig, cast out, let the sinker sink to the bottom, and then proceed to jig for herring in an up-and-down motion, generally keeping their rigs near the bottom. It is not uncommon to load up all six hooks with herring ranging from 8- to 11-inches long.
Some of the fishermen pickle, smoke or can their herring, but the vast majority will be using them for lingcod bait in the ocean. They are the go-to lingcod rig for Captain Jim Bithell from Charthouse Sportfishing, who limits out his clients with regularity.
For the most premium lingcod bait, you’ll want your herring to have all of their scales intact, because it is the shimmering scales that reflect the light that attracts the lingasaurs.
It is the wiggling of the herring after it has been caught that causes them to lose their scales, and they will lose them rapidly if you don’t kill the fish immediately.
In order to stop a herring cold in its tracks, load an ice chest with a 3-inch layer of ice and then sprinkle a liberal amount of non-iodized salt on the ice. Repeat this procedure until your ice chest is one-half to three-quarters full of the ice/salt mixture.
Doing this turns your ice chest into a portable freezer, maintaining a temperature below 32 degrees. Within seconds after a herring hits the ice, it stops wiggling and retains its scales. You’ll have to straighten out the herring from time to time because they tend to freeze in a curled position.
I then take mine home and vacuum pack them in lots of six, so that I’ll always have prime lingcod bait on hand. They also work great for large rockfish and Pacific halibut as well.
The length of the herring run varies year-to-year, but usually lasts anywhere from three to six weeks. Most of the herring are being jigged from the jetty rocks near the public boat ramp.
A California fishing license is required to jig for herring, with the exception of the B Street Pier and Citizens Dock.
Do not throw away your old plastic worms and twin-tail plastics. If you like jigging for rockfish and lingcod using various brands of plastics like I do, then you’ll definitely want to try out a product called Mend-it.
Mend-it was first used by bass fishermen for repairing expensive swimbaits, and is now being used by plastics aficionados to fabricate and repair lures like Scampis, the more expensive Zoom Flukes, Senkos and plastic worms.
This stuff is nothing short of amazing. I recently took a Zoom Fluke, split the tail further up the body with scissors so that the tails were longer, and wedged a small piece of plastic from the same lure between the tails to spread them further apart. When I dabbed a little Mend-it on each side of the wedge and on the tail where the wedge was attached, I created a bait that had the most awesome action I’ve ever seen.
After applying the product, hold the plastic parts together for about a minute. After letting it sit for about 10 minutes, it’s ready to use. It’s so strong that it’s difficult to pull the pieces apart.
The possibilities of this product is only limited by your imagination. You can take the tail of a fluke that has had the head torn up, and glue it to the head of another fluke that had the tail bitten off, and you’ll have a new lure.
It also dries to a soft state, unlike Super Glue, which dries to a hardened state (and also tends to glue fingers together). If the aforementioned scenario occurs, be sure to carry some fingernail polish in your tackle box that contains acetone.
I have also taken curly tails off of other plastic worms and glued them onto Scampis and Flukes and created gnarly creature baits that no lingcod can resist. You can even extend the length of your 7-inch Flukes if you so desire.
You can buy this stuff on eBay or Amazon. It is my hope that all of the tackle stores in the local area will see the benefits of Mend-it and carry it on the shelf.
So when the ocean is nasty and unfishable, like it has been in recent weeks, there’s nothing like creating your own trademark plastic lure.