Last summer I experimented with preserving herring. At Whaler’s Cove Lodge everyone goes out in the morning and jigs their own live herring, then put them in a bucket and use dead herring all day. Some of the captains salt their herring, or fillet the herring and then salt them. After many experiments I combined my old standard brine recipe with a new technique.
First off, here’s my brine recipe.
3 parts non-iodized salt or pickling salt (use any measuring device)
1 part powdered milk
Mix well and store in a dry container.
After mixing your brine solution
1 part brine mix to 3 parts water.
Add herring to brine mixture. You can also add food coloring, or freeze dried herring, available at http://www.halibut.net to add some flavor to the mixture. Mrs Stuart’s Bluing also works well to color your bait.
Sometimes the salmon want a blue, green or purple bait, so try different colors. The powdered milk shines up the herring and helps preserve it. Adding some of your favorite scent or simple herring oil helps to “sweeten” your brine and add enticing flavor to your baits.
Use a six or 12 pack cooler for your herring brine and add a Ziplock with ice. This keeps the mix from heating and rotting/spoiling the bait. Here’s where you will save lots of money over time. Each night close the cooler’s lid and put it in the freezer. Typically the brine won’t completely freeze overnight but will keep the herring from going bad. If you don’t fish for a several days or longer the mix will freeze, but it’s a milky, not solid ice kind of freeze. Even after a month in deep freeze it will thaw enough overnight to be ready for use in the morning.
When using fresh herring cut the heads off, remove guts, rinse bodies and heads in a bucket of ocean water. Rinse thoroughly to clean off any blood and guts. Transfer to your cooler of brine mix. While guiding at Whaler’s Cove I routinely used 10 to 12 day old baits without suffering any loss of quality. Fact is, I preferred the older baits because they were tougher, but not rotten.
Try it this summer and remember, my recipe is just a starting point, you can experiment and come up with your own preferred brine that works great for you.