Cured Salmon Eggs for Brilliant Fall Fishing

Cured Salmon Eggs as Bait

While there is no reasonable explanation as to why spawning salmon strike their own eggs, these moody river monsters will readily engulf properly cured eggs with reckless abandon during their fall mating ritual. Cured salmon eggs provide a unique dynamic including a visual stimulation along with a scent trail that get the salmon fired up enough to ignore everything else around them and focus on hammering a gob of eggs. 

How to Cure Salmon Eggs for Fishing:

Getting Fresh Salmon Roe

There are a number of commercially-produced cures on the market today, we will focus on the Fire Cure produced by Pautzke Bait Company for this particular egg curing recipe.  Before we get to the specifics of the recipe, the first step to fishing with good spawn is getting fresh eggs. 

Cleaning the Egg Skeins

Cleaned salmon skein filled with eggs used for salmon fishing
Start with good clean skein

Captain Troy Creasy of High Adventure Guide Service offers his advice when it comes to finding eggs to cure: 

  1. The eggs found in king or coho salmon at this time of year usually are still in the skein, meaning the eggs are still maturing and connected to the reproductive organs of the fish.
  2. When you remove the skeins from the fish, wipe as much blood off the eggs as possible. It helps if you, bleed any fish that you intend to harvest immediately by cutting the gills where the jaw connects to the body.  This ensures that very little blood gets on the roe when you clean the fish.

Before you Cure

Once the eggs are clean, wrap them in multiple layers of paper towel and keep them cool until it is time to cure them.  Do not let them sit for more than 24-hours, since they will soften and break during the process; the object is the get cure on the eggs as soon as possible after harvest to ensure the best possible results.

Cut the Skeins

One last step before starting the process of curing salmon eggs for bait, is to cut the skeins into fishable size chunks. It is a much cleaner and easier task to cut the egg skeins prior to the eggs being cured, as handling and cutting cured eggs can be a messy process.

Begin at one end of the skein and cut them crosswise into a large chunk, then split that piece in half which will typically give you a piece that will be close to a golf ball in diameter when placed on the hook.  Another advantage to pre-cutting the skeins is that the cure will spread evenly and penetrate deeper into the eggs, ensuring a nice even consistency to the eggs with regard to the color and texture.

The Benefits of Adding the Fire Cure

Pautzkes is famous for its Balls O’ Fire jarred salmon eggs that trout anglers have used successfully since the 1950’s. But they are more than just a bait processing company; Pautzkes also produces some unique egg cures and scents. Utilizing dried krill (tiny shrimp that salmon feed on in the Pacific Ocean), the Fire Cure and Fire Power additive give eggs produce a scent trail that fall salmon seem to love.  Though long-removed from the Pacific, Lake Ontario Salmon definitely prefer the unique scent and great taste of krill, as evidenced by the number of times the Salmon engulf Fire Cured eggs.

Captain Troy’s Advice on the Egg Curing Process

Table filled with salmon eggs being cured for salmon fishing
Use good clean skein and a quality cure
  1. With the egg chunks spread out on a cookie sheet covered with a thick layer of paper towel, sprinkle the Fire Cure on the eggs first.
  2. Roll the salmon eggs around the cure (be sure to use latex gloves when doing this) to ensure that the entire chunk is completely coated with the cure.
  3. Once all the egg chunks are coated, place the uncovered sheet of salmon eggs in the fridge for one to a few hours in order to let the cure soak into the eggs completely.
  4. At this point in time, remove the roe from the fridge and place them in sealed plastic bags, then back to soak in the fridge overnight. 

During the Curing Process

As you go through the process of curing salmon eggs for bait over the next 8 to 10 hours, the cure pulls excess moisture from the eggs, making them ‘juicy,’ says Troy “It is this natural excess juice produced by the eggs, along with the scent and color provided by the cure that will give off a powerful scent cloud when it’s time to go salmon fishing.

Some anglers prefer to sprinkle the cured salmon eggs with a scent additive, such as the Fire Power during the curing process. This powder isn’t a cure but rather a scent additive that will give the eggs another food source scent that pressured salmon often react favorably to.  The longer these cured salmon eggs are allowed to sit in the plastic bag with the Fire Cure and Fire Power, the better.  The eggs will absorb an optimal amount of the krill powder after sitting in it, refrigerated,  for a week. This can make a huge difference in your catch rate when the going gets tough.

One Last Piece of Advice 

Captain Troy said “I like to carry a few different types of cured salmon eggs with me when I’m on the water, as the fish may show a preference to eggs that have been cured longer and enhanced with the Fire Power one day, and on the next day may prefer eggs that are freshly cured.. The greater variety you have, the more strikes you will encounter through the course of the day.”

The End Result

Open jaw of a salmon with a hook deep in its throat caught using cured salmon eggs
So deep you needed pliers to get the hook out

While it takes a fair bit of effort to make cured salmon eggs properly, the end result can be astonishing when it comes time to go salmon fishing with them on the river.  Many guides across our region rely on cured salmon eggs as their “go to” bait day in and day out through the fall run.

Give yourself the same edge this fall by making your own cured salmon eggs and don’t be afraid to experiment with different curing ingredients, colors and scent additives to find your own “secret” formula that puts the edge in your favor. 

Original Article By Brian Kelly & Troy Creasy

About the Author

Brian Kelly has chased steelhead from British Columbia to New York and enjoys teaching others this great outdoor sport as well as testing his skills on new waters.

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