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How to Catch Herring

Updated on April 26, 2016

Herring is one of the best species of fish to catch on a rod and reel. The herring is normally a small fish used for bait to catch stripers and other members of the bass family. However, the herring can grow to several pounds and be about two to three feet long. Although filled with lots of small bones, including 19 Y bones, this size makes them a good fish to eat when properly prepared.

These fish are quite fragile, but will fight to the bitter end twisting and jumping until free. It is also common to catch more than one at a time because they normally travel in large schools. The herring is a salt water fish, but it can also live in fresh water. This species is common in large rivers and their tributaries.

This hub relates my husband's experience fishing for herring with the hopes that you too will be able to experience the thrill of catching herring. So, sit back, take some notes and enjoy this hub.

Equipment for Catching Herring

Before going out to catch herring, you will need some equipment. A lightweight medium action spinning rod about six feet or so in length works well. You want a rod that will bend well, but that is not too flimsy. Try whipping with the rod at various speeds to tell if it will work well for you. Whipping is one of the most common ways to approach herring. Shimano has been an excellent brand in the past although there are many more that will work just as well.

Apply a matching spinning reel to the rod. Make sure the balance feels good in the hand while at the store.

Use a good quality light (no more than 10 lbs) fishing line on the reel. Stren is a good brand, but almost any monofilament line will do. The best color is that which is not visible under the water where you are fishing. You will need to find this information out locally where you intend to fish.

Fishing lures are a must unless you want to use other less conventional baits. There are the conventional small minnows and less conventional magic bait. This bait, not sold in stores, must remain a secret between the select few that know about it, out of respect for the fisherman who gave some to my husband. If you are my husbands former fishing partner from the Navy, or someone who knows what magic bait is, I am sure you are an advanced enough fisherman to know what I am talking about. Anyway, the lure you want to use will depend on what the fish want. There are herring jigs and various flies that work well. Check the local laws for limits on the number of hooks allowed. If going after a state record fish, use only one hook. Tube jigs in various sizes, especially those that are two colors such as red and pearl, work very well. Black and green or some variation of it works well too. Curly tail jigs are also, excellent lures. It is preferred on large rivers to use them in pearl or white with a 1/4oz jig head. Use a pink head for better results, but normal lead works in a pinch. For an added twist, poke a hole in the tail. This will add a different action and sound. Silver Kastmaster brand spoons fished with a slow dragging motion are good lures in the right conditions. Be sure to have plenty of extra lures on hand when you go fishing. It would not be good to have only one fishing lure and either lose it or break it.

If you are going to keep the herring alive for any length of time, you need a large enough bucket for the fish to be not too crowded. You will also, need a fish aerator and some rock salt. Just use water from where you are fishing and be sure to clean well after each use. Changing the water may be required every few minutes if the temperature is very high.

Now, that you have all the equipment you need it's time to head out to the fishing hole.

Where are the fish?

Herring can be found just about anywhere along major rivers that have stripers. You may have to go to several spots before finding the fish, but once you find one, there may be a thousand or more. If you are a highly advanced fisherman you may be able to spot the fish by the movement of the waves on the surface. This is a skill that can only be learned from experience. I know of no one who teaches this skill and it has to my knowledge not been written. A common place to start on the river once you have chosen one is at or near one of the dams. You can catch the herring on both the lock side and generator side, but the generator side is best and it is better when they are running or if there are some gates open.

Now, here is the really hard part (and you thought finding fish by reading waves was hard). Cast your lure upstream and take up the slack. Let the fishing lure drift downstream, then reel it in using a steady retrieve. Point the rod at the water and experiment with various whipping techniques and retrieves. The object is to find out what lure the fish want and how they want it presented. Generally the colder the water, the slower the retrieve. Keep trying different methods until one bites. Once you catch one, use that same method until they seem to quit biting, then either the fish changed what and or how they want the meal, or the school moved and you will have to adjust to continue catching fish.

Final thoughts on catching herring

In conclusion, the herring is a wonderful fish that is seldom purposely sought except for striper bait. It is overlooked in favor of a certain game fish that gets found in fewer numbers and pound for pound does not fight as well.

I hope you have found this hub educational enough and can use the information to catch herring. Now, get out there and catch them fish.


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    • workingmomwm profile imageAUTHOR

      Mishael Austin Witty 

      7 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Thanks, blockangler. My husband says that works in some cases, but not always.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The secret bait a bare hook with some colored thread on it.

    • workingmomwm profile imageAUTHOR

      Mishael Austin Witty 

      7 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Thanks, Gordon. Sorry to here about the herring fishing in Scotland. If you ever make it to the U.S., there are plenty of places to find herring over here.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 

      7 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Great Hub. I used to love fishing for herring but sadly overfishing and more has largely put paid to them in Scottish inshore waters. Interesting that you mention spinning for herring, as that was not a technique I used to use. Generally pirking was the most successful technique over here.

      I also love eating herring, particularly when they are filleted, coated in oatmeal and pan fried - delicious.

    • workingmomwm profile imageAUTHOR

      Mishael Austin Witty 

      7 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Thanks, Jangaplanet. Glad you liked it!

    • Jangaplanet profile image

      A James Di Rodi 

      7 years ago

      Hey great hub and thanks for posting it .


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