Catching and Curing Threadfin Herring

The livelier the baits, the more fish you'll catch.
Steve Dougherty
Not to be confused with Atlantic herring, the threadfin herring is common throughout Florida and are often called "greenies" in the Gulf of Mexico. Aptly named due to the long thread-like fin that extends behind their dorsal, these fragile baits resemble scaled sardines but are more desirable to tournament sailfish anglers because they have a much larger profile. Story and photos by Steve Dougherty.
Although threadfin rise to the surface in huge numbers at times and can be acquired in mass quantities with a cast net, these delicate baits are best captured with a sabiki rig and handled with a de-hooker to ensure the preservation of scales and slime coat.
There's no shortage of bait-holding structure off of Miami. The East Range Marker, commonly referred to as Bent Range, has become the go-to spot. There's also a spar buoy just north of Bent Range that's worth a look. No matter where you hunt herring, tidal movement is key -- not much happens during slack tide.
When attempting to catch threadfin, outfit yourself with a variety of size 6 and 8 sabiki rigs in both green and red quills. Some crews go the extra mile and only use quill rigs fabricated from fluorocarbon.
Making bait can be easy at times, but conditions change and the action you encounter will be largely dependent on the current, water clarity, temperature and oxygen levels. Chumming helps bring bait to the surface.
Herring are not particularly hardy and will quickly float belly up from overcrowding or mishandling. A properly rigged pump system will reduce the velocity of water flow -- too much flow can harm herring by forcing them to swim too hard. If your goal is to cure herring for a future date, then you need to be extremely careful with your handling techniques.
Curing bait is only worthwhile if you take the necessary steps to keep your baits as healthy as possible, which means dipping a single bait at a time when transferring from livewell to bait pen. With proper handling you'll see a noticeable difference in how frisky your baits are, which greatly impacts their ability to attract a bite.
While goggle-eyes are best kept in large cages that rest below the surface, threadfin herring survive best in floating plastic Chemtainer tanks.
Captive herring in the process of being cured must learn how to swim in a circle. Those that don't go with the flow will ultimately perish. It's critical you check penned baits daily to feed them and skim off the weak, wounded or dead.

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