It’s not exactly a secret that big kings love to eat herring, alewives, smelt and gizzard shad. During the dog days of summer one of the most consistent ways to catch king salmon all across the Great Lakes is by employing a rotating flasher with a meat head tipped with a whole brined herring.
The Great Lakes doesn’t have as many kings anymore, but the fish are bigger on average. Big adult kings like this tend to bite cut bait rigs and meat rigs with reckless abandon.
The rotator acts not just as an attractor, but also to give the meat head that seductive slow spinning action. The combination of the rotator and the meat head create an enticing rolling bait that salmon simply can’t ignore.
This rig can be deployed on a downrigger, magnum diving planer or on sinking lines like copper, weighted stainless steel wire and also lead core line.
On the west coast anglers create the perfect roll in their herring a different way. Instead of fishing rotators and meat heads, they cut off the head of the herring at just the right angle to create an enticing bait that slow rolls. It takes considerable experience to cut and rig the herring perfectly. Anything less than perfect usually yields few bites.
It’s hard to beat experience, but thankfully there are some short cuts for those of us who haven’t spent a lifetime learning how to cut herring. The most popular option is to use the Pro Cure Killer Kutter a metal tray that features a knife slot designed to create the perfect compound cuts on herring, alewife, gizzard shad and other forage fish. With the help of this unique tool and a sharp knife anyone can cut their baits so they roll perfect every time. The Killer Kutter comes complete with detailed instructions not only for cutting the bait, but also rigging methods that guarantee success.
On the west coast fishing cut herring is wildly popular among salmon anglers. Most anglers run an attractor like the Big Al Fish Flash with a cut herring trailing four or five feet behind the flasher. Lead weights ranging in size from eight ounces to two pounds are rigged on droppers, rudders or on a Yakima Bait Free Sliding Spreader to get this rig down in strong tidal currents.
The spinning Fish Flash attractor does a nice job of luring in fish, but it’s the slow rolling herring that closes the deal. Primarily this rig is employed when kings have entered the rivers and are making their way upstream to spawn.
While few anglers in the Great Lakes fish cut herring rigs, I can say after fishing them on the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon that this rig produces the lion share of the king salmon taken on the Columbia.
Put yourself in this picture. Mature kings like this four year old fish caught by Paige Kuiper are what fishing dreams are all about.
Rigging a Fish Flash in front of a cut herring would be an ideal way to target salmon in the many drowned river mouth fisheries along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Once salmon enter these in-land lakes they pass quickly through the lake on their way upstream to the rivers that feed these basins.
Trolling using downriggers, diving planers and the free sliding spreaders popular on the west coast are all good ways to present a Fish Flash in front of a cut herring.
Monster kings like this one caught by Jake trolling a rotator and meat rig are why anglers travel thousands of miles to get in on the action.