Just got back from the Lower Columbia River, and the spring chinook fishery is in full swing and will only get better heading into next month. We fished the Davis Bar area last Thursday right across from the Willamette River and hooked three and got two nice hatchery springers in the boat.
What I found out this season is that your common old silver-colored herring isn’t the way to go, and the new rave among anglers is coloring their herring bait.
Dyes are the new fish attractant being used on the big river, and it paid off for us along with some Smelly Jelly anise scent peppered on our cut-plug herring. Certain dyes seem to work better on depending on the weather condition. When it is overcast, blue (which we used exclusively) or chartreuse works the best, and then on sunny days use red.
Here is the secret dye recipe we used for our green-label frozen herring from state Fish and Wildlife biologist and salmon guru Joe Hymer of Vancouver:
Use two cups of rock, kosher or road salt to about one quart of clean purified non-chlorinated water, with either blue food dye or the Mrs. Stuart’s liquid bluing. Mix it all up in a large-sized baggie or plastic container and let it sit in the refrigerator over night or at least the night before you go fishing. The most important thing is to keep the concoction on ice in a cooler.
Hymer says everyone has their own “secret recipe” and some anglers also use a cup of powdered milk to firm the meat up. Another important note is to always leave the herring whole when processing and then cut-plug them on the water.
(Photo by Mark Yuasa, The Seattle Times)