For over 20 years I’ve been plying the waters of Lake Ontario for kings, steelhead and brown trout. When it comes to trolling bait on the Great Lakes, I have always used the old school brine of mixing salt and water .
But after years of following that pattern my habits have now changed and it’s saved me a lot of time and mess. For the past three seasons I’ve been using commercial brine and thrown my two-decade old brine recipe out the door. I’m now using Pautzke Fire Brine exclusively for several reasons.
In the past when I brined my own baits we’d lose the scales off the bait and it wouldn’t shine as much. Now, with the help of Pautzke Fire Brine I get a wicked shine and can fish any color bait. Fire Brine is really easy, takes less time and isn’t anywhere near as messy.
Sure, my old bait caught fish, at times, when it held up. On the other hand, the old bait wouldn’t work half as well when the scales came off as when the scales stayed on, like they do now. Fire Brine makes it so the baits I use maintain their scales and the shine. The fish are responding better than ever. I’m spending less time making bait and more time fishing.
The biggest thing I’ve noticed since switching to Fire Brine is the spectrum of colors I’m catching fish on. Some days they’ll only hit the chartreuse. Prior to two years ago I’d never used colored bait. As a rule I’ve found that the bright, sunny days are when chartreuse and green work best, but when it’s cloudy we see better action on purple and green. That’s right, I’m catching salmon on purple colored herring and alewife strips. I actually just worked up a batch of blue to try as well. Natural colors work in all conditions, as natural color is what we ran for the last few decades when bait was available.
Trolling bait is similar to dragging flies or trolling lures. We keep 100s of different colored lures and flies on the boat to be ready when certain colors work, the same reason I keep a few colors of bait on the boat. To me, there’s nothing better than trolling bait. It’s a natural presentation. These fish are eating bait everyday in the lake. Now you can put it in any color, just like you can switch out colors of flies and spoons.
In the last three years brine has become way more popular for trolling than it was prior to that. Every shop now sells fire brine and sells out of it when the kings are biting. We all know that bait catches the largest salmon and brining baits has become standard among most Lake Ontario trolling anglers.
Here on Lake Ontario I mostly troll herring and alewives for steelhead, salmon and browns. However, Pautzke Fire Brine works on any cut bait you fish whether in the ocean or lake. In fact, I’ve seen them selling ballyhoo around here now (and now my buddy Troy Creasy of High Adventure SportFishing has used this brine on ballyhoo). It’d work on that, sardines, minnows, etc.
Using Pautzke Fire Brine on your bait does several things to all cut baits: toughens them up, prolongs their life when fished, makes them shinier, keeps their scales intact longer and saves you time and money by being able to use your bait for longer periods of time.
Materials: Store Bought Herring/Alewives, Pautzke Fire Brine, Tupperware
Step 1: Drop the alewives/herring (or any cut bait) into the Tupperware and pour enough Pautzke fire brine in with them so that the bait is completely covered.
Step 2: Let the bait sit for 24 hours to allow the Pautzke fire brine to work. (I take the Tupperware and put it in the fridge.)
Step 3: After 24 hours the alewives/ herring are ready to use or freeze for later use. I’ve frozen them in the brine with and without the liquid in them. Both are methods have proven their effectiveness for catching coho salmon, steelhead and brown trout. Make sure to keep your bait refrigerated, if you don’t freeze them.
One last tip before I leave to your own Pautzke fire brine devices. Alewives can be a challenging bait fish to work with sometimes. When you use store bought alewives they tend to be soft and need to be toughened up further. But don’t despair, I have a trick to combat this less than desirable trait. After I brine them, I add distilled water and powdered milk overnight to toughen up the alewives. However, when using herring, and other cut baits, this isn’t necessary.
Captain Kevin Davis operated Catch The Drift out of Oswego, New York, and guided Lake Ontario during the summer months. He was a life-long angler who loved to share his knowledge and passion with all. He was a loving husband and father. Kevin passed away in 2018.