Cut Bait for Salmon Fishing Success

woman posing with huge fish caught while using cut bait for salmon fishing
The only remedy for salmon fever is going fishing.

Cut Bait for Salmon Fishing on Lake Ontario

 “Salmon Fever” is a disease that many anglers have contracted after experiencing fighting their first king in open water on Lake Ontario.  No one ever forgets the challenge and thrill of the fight of the most powerful game fish sought by anglers throughout the Great Lakes, all over the United States and Canada.

Henderson Harbor

When heading out of Henderson Harbor, most fishermen head toward the trench to stalk big kings in August and September.  Most realize that the real bite on most days is just before or after first light for a few hours.  When rods are first set, most are at the edge of their seat waiting for that first rod to “fire up” in anticipation of a screaming king stripping line off the drag.

Flasher- Flies

Over the past few years, most guides have been using combinations of flasher-flies as they became the most successful in catching salmon in the late summer and fall.  Among the favorites in this area are Pro Troll Flashers with E-chips followed by A-Tom-Mik trolling flies that many charter captains consider the best.  There is no question in August and September that flasher-fly combinations could be the most productive salmon taker on the lake, but cut bait  for salmon fishing could jump back in the picture as an alternative.

Woman on fishing boat holding up large king salmon caught on Lake Ontario
Sometimes fishing cut bait will produce best results for salmon.

Fishing with Cut Bait for Salmon 

Making a Comeback

Fishing with cut bait for salmon took a nose dive when flasher-flies hit the market. When the VHS virus hit the lake it made it hard to find any legal-cut bait, which pushed anglers even more toward flies. There is some cut bait starting to make its way back into use and we at Moby Dick Charters thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the old and basic tips on how to use it.

What is Cut Bait?

Basically, cut baits are herring strips secured inside a colored teaser lure that revolves and has a flasher in front of it to attract the fish.  Both the teasers and the flashers come in many different colors, with silvers, blues, glo-greens, chartreuse and reds being some of the favorites.

How to prepare Cut Baits

Cut herring strips are packaged in a frozen saline solution.  They must be thawed before using them, but not too much in advance or they will lose their fresh oily odor.

Once the herring strips have thawed, insert one in the plastic teaser and push it all the way against the nose, securing it in place by pushing a toothpick through the hole designed for this which holds the cut baits in the teaser.  Clip off the toothpick flush with the teaser.  Put a second toothpick against the line in the special blister at the tail end of the teaser, which will let it slide but not slip.

Getting the Bait in the Water

When you first put the bait in the water and observe its action, you’ll probably have to modify it a bit as each herring strip is hand cut so they are not exactly alike.

Revolving Bait

Lake Ontario angler on a boat holding up huge king salmon catch
Paying attention to details while fishing cut bait for salmon often pays big results.

One basic principle in nature is that wounded behavior triggers aggression. Revolving herring baits are very successful on kings since they look wounded because the flashes to light and dark betray their natural camouflage.

Studies have shown that the sound revolving baits make helps trigger strikes as it duplicates a struggling, injured organism. Most fishermen realize that an easy meal for most fish sure beats using all that energy on something more elusive.

Teasers and the baits used with them revolve at one to two turns per second. If it does not revolve it will not produce fish.  The best action is a roll, not a spin. Spinning baits where the head turns in a small circle while the tail turns in a large circle don’t catch fish. 

The best action is a roll with a bit of wobble or hesitation in it. Again, it is best to check the lure action at the side of the boat before lowering it to the desired fishing depth.

Adjusting Your Bait

If the bait acts too slowly, you can: 

  1. Speed up 
  2. Move the hook back even to the tail of the bait
  3. Bend the ¼ inch of the plastic lure tail down and away from the strip.  

If the bait acts too fast, you can: 

  1. Slow down
  2. Move the hook back even to the tail of the bait, 
  3. Flatten out the plastic tail section of the lure.

Leader Lengths

Leader lengths can range from two feet to five and one-half feet, depending on certain fishing conditions that day.  Always keep on experimenting with different set-ups and hang on to the rod as fishing with cut bait for salmon triggers some ferocious hits.  Don’t forget a container to keep cut baits in.

Cut Bait is Worth a Try!

Cut bait for salmon is not the answer for catching more kings on Lake Ontario, but if you can find some good bait, it might be worth a try.  Good luck and have lots of fun trying this extraordinary way to fish and if you have no luck, you always have flasher-fly combinations to fall back on.

Remember there is no known cure for ”Salmon Fever.” But the best medicine for it is to go fishing as often as possible.

Original Article By Captain Bob Dick

About the Author

Captain Bob Dick owns and operates “Moby Dick Charters” out of Henderson Harbor on Lake Ontario.  Captain Bob specializes in sport fishing for trophy walleye, browns, lake trout, king salmon, northern pike and smallmouth bass. He has lived and fished the eastern end of Lake Ontario and tributaries his entire life and is a member of the NYS Outdoor Writers’ Association.

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