Salt Herring and Roe -- by Jimmy Fleming



This time of year always reminds me of Blueback Herrings. When I was young my grandparents and many other Tyrrell County folks would go dipping for herrings. This meant taking a homemade dip net sometimes constructed of chicken wire and traveling to a canal or small tributary from the Scuppernong River to dip for herrings. The Blueback Herring used to show up in eastern North Carolina waters by the millions in early spring to spawn. They were a major part of our fishing culture since this area of North Carolina was settled. Herrings provided an abundant, available, and tasty natural resource that could be eaten fresh or pickled for shipment or to be consumed later. Local commercial fisherman used to catch huge numbers of herrings in gill nets and pound nets for processing and shipment from our waters. I have great memories of watching my grandparents putting layers of herrings in the old pickle barrel to salt them, the smell of herrings frying (both salt and fresh), and of course the taste of freshly fried herring roe. My granddad used to tell me of the herring houses that operated in our county when he was young and of seeing the sailing schooners at the docks to pick up wooden barrels of salt herrings. Sadly, the Blueback Herring population started to decline in the 1970s and 80s and continued until North Carolina lawmakers enacted a moratorium to stop all fishing for them in 2006. These days the herrings still come to our waters in limited numbers, but the excitement and the great cultural activities of the past are no more. All of the herring fish houses are gone, the only herring roe you can get comes in a can, and restaurants that used to specialize in cooking herrings have to import the herrings from another state. I sure hope that scientists and biologists can find the answers to bring back the Blueback Herring to the numbers like years ago before salt herrings and fresh herring roe become like so many other of our lost traditions.

Salt Herring and Roe -- by Jimmy Fleming Salt Herring and Roe -- by Jimmy Fleming Reviewed by kensunm on 7:45:00 PM Rating: 5

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