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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

March 3, 2011 at 12:40 PM

Colored and scented herring is the way to catch spring chinook

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March Madness has arrived in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m not talking about bouncing any basketball in a gym.

For people like me this means only one thing, and that is Columbia River spring chinook!

This season some 300,000-plus spring chinook have started to arrive in the “Big C” and the top choice of bait is herring.

Those planning a “Big C” fishing trip would be wise to buy their green labeled frozen herring now before you have to start going from tackle shop to tackle shop to find them.

Now if you’ve had any inkling on the great salmon fishery you already know that coloring and brining your herring is the way to go over using that plain old silver-colored herring.

Dyes are the rave fish attractant being used, and it will pay dividends to also pepper the cut-plug herring with some Smelly Jelly anise scent too! Certain dyes seem to work better depending on the weather condition. When it is overcast, blue or chartreuse works the best, and then on sunny days use red.

Here is the secret dye recipe we used last spring 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. Others on the market are Mike’s Brite & Tight new 3-In-1 cure, dye and scent formula.

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. At least eight hours if you want to put the herring on the clock. 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.

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