Prepare for the herring run

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist February 01, 2013 09:05 pm
Kevin Lacy from Citrus Heights, California was fishing on the Chetco on Wednesday with Craig Sutton of Craig Sutton Guide Service when he caught this 17-pound steelhead while side-drifting Puff Balls-and-roe above Loeb State Park. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Kevin Lacy from Citrus Heights, California was fishing on the Chetco on Wednesday with Craig Sutton of Craig Sutton Guide Service when he caught this 17-pound steelhead while side-drifting Puff Balls-and-roe above Loeb State Park. The Pilot/Larry Ellis

It happens every February, just like clockwork. Sometime this month, Pacific herring will be entering Crescent City Harbor to spawn.

Nobody knows for sure exactly when the herring will arrive. They could creep into the harbor tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or one week from tomorrow, but if you’re not locked, loaded and ready to head to the harbor at a moment’s notice, your opportunity at loading the freezer with the best lingcod bait in the world will have come and gone.

So now is the time to make sure that you have plenty of sabiki rigs on hand. Sabiki rigs are long pieces of line that come with six small hooks attached. Your local tackle store will have several different brands to choose from.

Some rigs will come with wings attached to the hooks, while others just have tiny beads above each hook. On some days the winged variety works best, but on other days, the ones that just have beads are the hot ticket, so it pays to have at least a couple of each variety on hand.

You’ll also need to use a limber freshwater-type fishing rod with a spinning reel loaded with 6-pound test. Filling your spool all the way to the brim will enable you to make very long casts if the schools are far away from the docks.

You will also need to carry some lightweight sinkers; either bank sinkers or cannonball sinkers will do. Most of the time a one-half ounce sinker will do the job.

You’ll also need something to put your herring into once they’ve been caught. I prefer to use an ice chest because it is critical to kill your herring immediately so that it will keep all of its scales. A herring without scales is absolutely useless.

Putting your herring immediately on ice will also give you the highest-quality eating product in case you want to smoke, pickle or can your herring. Here’s what I do to ensure that my herring are the highest-quality bait possible.

Use an ice chest that has wheels because you’ll be hauling these things up and down the ramps leading to the docks. You’ll also need two bags of ice and one canister of non-iodized salt.

Layer about 4 inches of ice on the bottom of your ice chest and then sprinkle a liberal amount of salt on top of the ice. Keep layering the same amounts of ice and salt until your ice chest is about two-thirds filled.

The salt will turn your ice chest into a freezer. Do not add any water because the mixture will eventually create its own slurry. After catching a herring, putting it onto this ice/salt mixture will almost immediately stop it from shaking, allowing the herring to keep all of its scales. You’ll have to check your herring and straighten them out from time to time because they will eventually freeze.

When you get your herring home, they’ll be ready for you to vacuum pack and throw into the freezer for future use.

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Steelhead fishing on the Chetco was a little on the slow side last week with anglers averaging one fish per boat, but that could turn around if the Chetco River bar flattens out this weekend, inviting more metalheads to cross the bar and head upriver.

Larry Cody from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach has reported good catches of winter steelhead in the lower Rogue River by both bank anglers and boaters. The river should remain in good shape at least through Monday.

“We’ve been also talking to some folks who are pushing the envelope and are catching redtail surfperch,” says Cody. “It’s a little early for surfperch but anglers are having a good time at it and are catching some nice fish.”

Cody suggests trying Nesika Beach and Kissing Rock near Hunter Creek.

Tight lines!