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Atlantic Herring

Updated on March 18, 2013

About Atlantic Herring

Atlantic herring are small pelagic fish that are harvested for food. Herring are also important as bait for blue crabs, lobsters and larger fish.

In the USA, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission coordinates management of the herring fishery in state waters, and the New England Fishery Management Council manages the fishery in federal waters.

Atlantic Herring

The Atlantic herring is one of the most abundant species of fish on the planet . They are small, pelagic fish known for their schooling tendencies. Male and female herring grow at about the same rate, reaching lengths of about 14 inches and living to 15 years. Herring are iridescent, greenish or grayish blue dorsally with a silvery abdomen and sides.

Atlantic herring can be found in both the eastern and western halves of the North Atlantic Ocean. In the western Atlantic, herring range from Labrador to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Along the North American coast, herring migrate from summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine to Georges Bank for spawning in September and October. Atlantic herring feed on zooplankton (tiny floating animals), krill, and fish larvae.

Herring are popular as table fare, a well known form being "pickled herring". Their flesh contains omega-3s, vitamin B12, and iron. Other names for this species include common herring, Labrador herring, sardine and sperling.

Atlantic Herring Commercial Fisheries

Atlantic herring are caught commercially using trawls, purse seines, weirs and stop seines.

In the United States, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission coordinates management of the herring fishery in state waters, and the New England Fishery Management Council manages the fishery in federal waters.

A 2012 ASMFC stock assessment found that Atlantic herring is not overfished and is not subject to overfishing.

Herring Recipes

Pickled Herring

6 fresh herring

1 tbsp to 1/2 cup sugar

1 cup white vinegar or to cover

1 large onion, sliced

1 thinly sliced lemon (optional)

2 cloves

6 peppercorns

4 bay leaves

1. Scale the herring, remove the heads, gut the fish and wash well. Simmer in water for 20 minutes.

2. Drain fish and cut into pieces.

3. Place in a 1 1/2-quart jar in layers the herring, onion, lemon slices, cloves, peppercorns, and bay leaves.

4. Add the vinegar, and as much of the remaining sugar as your taste dictates.

5. Cover the jar and keep in the refrigerator for 48 hours before using.

German Herring and Potato Pie

2 lb fresh or salted herring

2 tbsp butter

2 chopped onions

2 lb potatoes; boiled and sliced

2 egg yolks

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup breadcrumbs


salt, pepper and mace

For fresh herring:

Clean herring and cut into forksize pieces. Sprinkle with salt and refrigerate 1/2 hr. Rinse and dry.

For salt herring:

Skin and bone fish; cut into filets. Rinse and soak filets overnight in cold water with 2 or 3 changes of water. Drain, pat dry and cut into fork size pieces. Omit salt from the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350. In a skillet melt butter and when bubbling saute onion til browned. Butter a casserole dish. In alternate layers add potatoes, fish and onions with some onion butter. Continue building layers ending with potato. Beat egg yolks and fold them into the sour cream. Season with pepper, mace, salt (for fresh herring only) and pour over the potatoes. Sprinkle with breadcrumbsand dot with additional butter. Bake 30-40 min until top is brown.

Fresh Herrings

Scale and clean the fish with the utmost nicety, split them quite open, and wash the insides with particular care; dry them well in a cloth, take off the heads and tails, and remove the back-bones; rub the insides with pepper, salt, and a little pounded mace; stick small bits of butter on them, and skewer two of the fish together as flat as possible, with the skin of both outside; flour, and broil or fry them of a fine brown, and serve them with melted butter mixed with a teaspoonful or more of mustard, some salt, and a little vinegar or lemon-juice.

To broil from 20 to 25 minutes; to fry about 10 minutes.

(Modern Cookery, 1845)

Herring Feedback

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    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 4 years ago

      I love salted herring