2 Great Herring Rigs for Ocean Salmon Fishing

The Westport cut-plug is deadly

The California ocean salmon opener has, not surprisingly, sparked a lot of interest in saltwater salmon fishing and I’ve received quite a number of emails this weekend from folks asking about how to rig up for kings in the salt. Well, that’s a subject worthy of a book and I could literally go on for days, but here are a couple of my favorites. These two are super quick and easy — and effective!

Before I begin, a quick word on bait selection. Regardless of the rig, you need good, quality bait. Buy only the tray variety if it’s available! There are lots of trick things you can do with baits like brining and dyeing them, but this time around, let’s stick to the basics. The anchovies this year are pretty small, so herring or small sardines are going to be your best bets.

The rig above is a basic “Westport” cutplug rig. Starting with a whole fish, make a “double 45” cut just behind the gill plate. Place the knife on the fish and rotate your wrist so the blade is at a 45-degree angle to it’s body at the same time, remove the head with a cut that angles 45 degrees from top to bottom. Remove the guts and you’re ready to follow the instructions above.

Now, I have a single hook rig pictured…where legal, you can also got with two hooks in tandem and run one near the front of the bait. When trolled, a cutplug herring has a beautiful roll to it that kings love. Run it with or without flashers….You can also mooch with the Westport rig, but in California, be sure to switch to circle hooks (as per the law).

The Strip & Squid is a great searching tool

On the troll you can also use the Strip & Squid rig. This is best run behind a dodger or flasher as the rig itself doesn’t have much action on its own. Simply take a fillet of baitfish and add it to a Hootchie rig. It’s kinda goofy-looking in the water but you get a nice combination of flash, smell and color that sometimes is the hot ticket.

I’ll post more rigs as the season moves on, but these are kind of like a quick start guide to get ya going…


  1. Bruce Matthews says

    Hi JD…
    I have always trolled (in Monterey Bay) with the round/elongated four-pound lead cucumber shaped. Recently I used the lead shaped something like a fish but it drifted all over the place and tied me up with the second line three times. Is there any way to make it pull to the outside by bending the tail or something? And with the two eyes, on the mouth and the back, which should I be using? Any help on this subject would be most appreciated…

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