Pacific herring (Celpea pallasi) are one of the most important prey species in the Northern Pacific. Herring grow to lengths of 10 to 12 inches and may live longer than 9 years. Herring are an essential link in the ocean’s food chain, and as such, the largescale commercial exploitation of herring in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska should be limited until their importance to the species that prey upon them is completely understood.
Herring occasionally spawn in most all of Oregon's bays but spawn consistently in Coos Bay, Umpqua Bay and Yaquina Bay from February through early April but most consistently during March. They also spawn at this time in the kelp forest and in the shallow rocky areas along the Oregon Coast during periods of neap tides. The females attach their eggs to underwater objects such as eelgrass and seaweed while the males broadcast their sperm into the water. The eggs hatch fourteen days later. Herring are not only available during the spawning period but enter many of Oregon's bays throughout the year. The popularity of jigging for herring is evident by the number of anglers that jig for off of the port docks at Newport in Yaquina Bay. The population of herring and other forage fish is dependent on the ocean currents. The upwelling of cold nutrient rich water associated with the California Current stimulates the growth of phytoplankton and is the biological engine that drives the ocean’s food chain. The population of herring and other forage fish increase dramatically when the upwelling persist over an extended period of time as evidenced by the appearance of large schools of forage fish in Oregon’s deepwater bays. The most productive fishing for herring occurs during the spawning period fishing from docks or boats using herring jigs.
Herring jigs consist of multiple small jigs attached to a leader. They can be purchased at local tackle shops. Use lightweight spinning tackle with 10 pound test monofilament for the main line. Use a sinker of sufficient weight to keep the jigs from tangling as they’re jigged up and down. When jigging for herring do not land the first herring hooked. Use the hooked herring to attract other herring to the jigs. It takes several hours to fill a 25 pound limit during the spawning period.
Herring are primarily used as bait. Live herring is the first choice of anglers followed by fresh dead and frozen. To preserve herring for bait freeze them individually in a salt brine solution; however, as a food fish herring are delicious. To preserve herring as a food fish pickle or smoke them. Once smoked, herring can be vacuum packed, frozen or canned.
Herring are so easily caught during the spawning period they provide parents with the opportunity to introduce their children to a positive fishing experience. As always, children on docks or in boats should wear life jackets and be under constant supervision.
Return to Oregon's Other Fish Species.