The cut plug herring rig is the pro guide’s preferred rig for trophy chinook salmon fishing. In this article you learn the keys, and view 3 videos that demonstrate exactly how to make a cut plug herring rig:
Summertime chinook salmon must gain as much weight as possible. They aggressively eat meat, meat, and more meat, and herring is the most plentiful bait fish in the north pacific. The herring bait is cut at an angle and the guts removed, creating a spinning, wounded herring rig that Chinook (King Salmon) will aggressively target for an easy to grab meal.
Herring is available in frozen packages from a variety of manufacturers. You want to choose the size of the bait to match the local bait fish, and then once you decide on the size look closely at the bait before purchase. Vacuum sealed herring are often in the best condition. The type of tray that the bait is on also is worth considering. Cardboard trays are being phased out because the frozen herring tends to stick to the cardboard. Plastic trays like you would find meat on in the supermarket are ideal. Once you find some bait, look closely at the bait to get an idea of how old it is. Some shops will re-sell last years bait until it sells out and then restock the new stuff and these shops you should try and avoid. Fresher bait is always preferable. You can tell old bait because there will be alot if ice crystals inside the package. Also the fish may look in poor condition and its eyes may be cloudy. If you buy vacuum sealed herring, make sure to cut a hole in the package to depressurize it before it thaws otherwise the herring will be mushed as it thaws.
Once you’ve selected your herring, you should brine it. The herring brine process is easy and can be completed with regular ingredients from your local supermarket. For complete details on herring brine refer to the FishinBC.COM article.
Related Article: Herring Brine for Trophy Chinook Salmon Fishing
To make a cutplug herring rig put the baitfish on your fish cleaning table and use a long, sharp filleting knife. I like to use one of the commercially available cutting jigs because they keep everything consistent. Line up the head with the groove in the jig and cut through the fish in one single smooth cut. If you saw back and forth with multiple slices, this can cause small tears in the herring and this will cause it to wear out faster in the water. If you find you have to make multiple slices then you may need a longer fillet knife. With the head cut off, swirl the knife tip to loosen and remove the guts from the stomach cavity. This completes the processes for preparing the bait.
You want to use a hook setup with two hooks for the herring rig. I like to use a 40lb fluorocarbon leader and twin 5/0 Gamagatsu Octopus or Owner hooks targeting 30-60lb Chinook. Use snelled knots to tie the rig. The trailing hook should be tied 5-7 inches back from the front hook to ensure that the trailing hook can be inserted very close to the tail. If the hooks are too close together you will not be able to set the tail hook as far back as possible and you may miss fish that swim up and nip at the tail.
I recommend you view the first video clip below at 2:32 shows exactly how to do this. Also view the 2nd and 3rd videos, the 2nd video at 4:30 gives some excellent pointers on how to set the trailing hook to catch the short biters.
Start the rigging process holding the trailing hook and at the head end of the herring pass the trailing hook into the low side of the cut, next to the spine. From there pierce the hook back into the flesh and curve over toward the high side of the fish, exiting the point out the the side so the hook point sticks out of the side of the fish near the lateral line. Now, pull the trailing hook completely through the hole. Take the leading hook and thread it through the exact same hole and set it in place so that it will pull the fish. Now grab the trailing hook again and set it into the tail of the herring. You can set it on the same side of the fish as the pulling hook, or, you can set it on the opposite side of the fish to give hook points on both sides of the fish. The tail hook catches the majority of the fish so ensure that it is well positioned and razor sharp!
When you get the herring rigged it is important to test it in the water. You want to see a tight roll and it should resemble a large diameter drill bit or auger revolving in the water. If the head is spinning tightly while the tail is wagging in a wide arc like a propeller then this is not the ideal roll for your bait. You need to check how the hooks are in the bait and possible adjust or re-do. Its not worth your time on the water to be fishing with an unproductive bait so be sure to test your bait and re-rig when necessary. Also check your bait every 15 minutes for weeds and for roll, and replace the bait if damaged.
I’ve attached three videos that show how to make a cut plug herring rig. These are good videos to learn the process or to show to your crew before heading out. This website and its videos are smartphone compatible so you can check this website out on your iphone and watch the videos out on the water for a refresher.
Writing about sportfishing for salmon, halibut, lingcod, rockfish, snapper, prawns, and crab, with tips and techniques to catch more fish by fine-tuning specific details.
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