Whole or cut plug herring is an effective and popular technique for catching salmon in many fisheries along the west coast. Here are a few tips that might help you produce more bites.
Choosing the right bait.
There are multiple suppliers of herring along the west coast. Sizes vary by color. From smallest to largest: Red, Green, Blue, Purple, and Black. The most commonly used sizes are green and blue but there are times when the little reds and large purples can be used.
When purchasing your bait it is important to look at the bait itself. You are looking for clear (not cloudy) eyes, no visible blood, vacuum sealed, and missing very few scales. Unfortunately, the next feature of the perfect bait will not be clear until opened and cut. When cutting the herring for use you want to see only blood inside the belly cavity.
Often suppliers sell herring that are in spawn and the cavity holds milt(sperm) sacks or skeins of roe. These herring have put most of their energy ie oils, into creating these and have lost some of their scent helpful in enticing a bite. Avoid these herring if possible.
There are as many formulas for brines as there are fisherman who use them. Everyone has their own variation but many have Salt(non-iodized). Salt firms up the bait and helps to keep it on the hook longer.
Powdered milk is another. This helps to keep the scales on the bait which will eventually fall off after being dragged through the water. These scales are like little mirrors that help bring the fish to the bait in murky water.
Mrs. Stewarts blueing (found in the detergent aisle in grocery stores) is also found in many brines. This helps to bring out the shine and iridescent colors in the scales.
These are the three main ingredients and after this many other scents can be added. I like Pautzkes Nectar, Anise, and krill. People also like Garlic, shrimp, vanilla, and tuna. There are times when each one of these scents will produce more than any other and also times when they want them straight out of the pack.
It is important to not over do it with any scent and usually less is more. Experimentation is key here to find what combo you like most.
Keep it clean.
Salmon can smell exceptionally well. Keeping your bait cooler, knives and cutting boxes can increase your odds of a hook up. A popular soap is non-ultra lemon joy. It helps to carry away stale odors and leaves no trace of foul odors on your bait. A bloody knife and box sitting in the sun can go from clean to ripe in a short time. This is an easy fix.