Learn To Brine Quality Herring for Grays Harbor & Chehalis Salmon

I look forward to fall in the Pacific Northwest every year. Cool mornings, Seahawks football and leaves changing color coincide with the rivers filling with salmon.

As Chinook and coho migrate from the Pacific Ocean into Grays Harbor and up into the Chehalis River and tributaries opportunities are numerous. The biggest challenge is knowing where to be and when. The second is understanding the regulations, which change with each branch and tributary. This season we have a fantastic opportunity for Chinook retention in some of our rivers. However, in Grays Harbor and the Chehalis River only coho can be kept. Coho fishing can be lights out. The preseason forecast is for high numbers once again and with quality bait you’ll have no problem catching them.

I’m a bait thug. When I pursue salmon in the fall I fish bait in one form or another. In river fisheries, primarily tributaries, its eggs cured in Fire Cure and BorX O Fire. When I am targeting coho in Grays Harbor or the Chehalis River, brined herring is the bait of choice.

The use of Fire Brine on my herring has been a game changer. In the harbor, Natural Fire Brine definitely gets it done. When it comes to fishing herring I have to have confidence in my bait. When I put that herring down on my lead dropper rig and troll behind a YBC Fish Flash at 2-3 mph I need to know that it will fish and not blow apart. Oftentimes I’m fishing cut plug herring. Creating durable bait that will continue to fish on the troll is easy when you soak them in Fire Brine for up to 48 hours prior to fishing them.

The past several seasons using Fire Brine to add color and UV to my herring has been extremely productive. Especially when you fish the Chehalis River, as there is a lot of turbidity in the water (staining or color) even when it is running clean. Fire Brine in green or chartreuse makes a difference.

I fish cut plug more than whole herring in the Chehalis River and Grays Harbor. It’s ok to brine them whole and cut them later as some will choose to do. Normally, I cut plug bait prior to brining. How do I create cut plugged colored herring that will be durable and fish well? Follow these simple steps.


It’s imperative to start with quality frozen herring or you are wasting your time. I start by removing the vacuum pack and allow them to begin to thaw at room temperature. As a rule, as soon as I can separate the herring without damaging them they are thawed enough to cut. Make sure to use an extremely sharp knife. Creating a clean edge and cut is important. Use a cutting block as a guide. This will give you the perfect cut every time.


The herring will still be slightly frozen so don’t worry about removing the entrails. Once brined and ready to fish you simply pull them out prior to rigging the herring. When you have finished getting a good clean coho cut on your herring they are ready to put into the brine.


Keep it simple. I use quart jars as it’s convenient for storage in the bait fridge (and cooler) and it’s clean. I pour in about a half bottle of Fire Brine. I add ¼ cup of non-iodized sea salt and add ½ to one full tablespoon of Fire Power (krill powder). Then simply put the cut herring into the mix and screw down the lid.


Keep herring in the brine 24- 48 hours prior to fishing. In this mixture the exposed meat of the herring cures up firm and creates that durable edge. It also allows enough time to get the color on the herring that I am looking for. With the chartreuse I also add a teaspoon of Chartreuse Fire Dye. This gives it tremendous color and a crazy amount of UV. When fishing stained water the more UV the better.


It’s a simple process, but it works and works great. Next time you’re planning to fish herring, give a pre-cut, Fire Brine soak a try. I think you will be impressed with how your baits perform and surely catch more fish.

Editor’s Note: Duane Inglin is the c0-host of Seattle’s Northwest Wild Country radio which can be heard Saturday morning from 6-8am on Sports Radio 950 KJR or live on TV at Comcast Sports Net. He fishes daily during the peak fall season.