Salmon Eggs As Bait for Successful Trout Fishing

Close up of a hand holding a rainbow trout, caught by using salmon eggs as bait.
A beautiful rainbow trout about to be released after falling prey to the use of a single salmon egg as bait, fished off the bottom in small inland NYS stream.

Salmon Eggs As Bait for Inland Stream Trout Fishing

Throughout the last two decades salmon egg sales in North America were devastated by the dough and plastic bait industry. However, in the last five years the use of salmon eggs as bait for inland stream trout fishing has seen a dramatic turnaround. Anglers are again turning to one of the best natural baits on the planet, they are fishing for trout with salmon eggs to convince trout to feed. 

Stream Trout Fishing Baits

“Salmon egg sales have increased over the last five years. New baits come and go, but salmon eggs continue to be a great stream trout fishing bait,” says Tom Vander Mause, owner of Atlas-Mike’s Bait, based in Wisconsin. “Trout love a natural salmon roe. They are attracted to it by sight, scent, taste and texture. When fished properly, salmon eggs are tough to beat.” 

Keeping your Bait Options Open

Casey Kelley, owner of Pautzke Bait Company, and famous for Balls ‘o Fire salmon eggs agrees.  “We’ve definitely seen an increase in the sale of salmon eggs as bait in the last five years, but I’m not quite sure that they are reverting to roe as much as there might be more of an awareness for eggs again due to more advertising,” he says. “Also note that if you look in most anglers tackle boxes you will see an arsenal of different baits. What works today might not work as well tomorrow so it’s important to have options.”

Natural Bait for Small Stream Trout Fishing 

Whereas the younger generation is conditioned to artificial baits, more veteran anglers grew up catching trout almost exclusively on salmon eggs as bait. However, rather than an advertorial on how great salmon eggs as bait are this article is set to dive into properly using salmon eggs to grasp their greatest potential. 

Different Colors for Salmon Eggs

Sadly, most anglers believe red eggs are imperative when stream trout fishing. But, not so fast, says Vander Mause, whose company manufactures several sizes and styles of eggs. That concept is one of the biggest myths in the fishing industry. 

Scented Salmon Eggs

“If you are only using red salmon eggs as bait, you don’t know what you are missing,” he tells LOO. “We find the most successful anglers use a variety of colors and scents to find the right combination that works best at each outing. Atlas Mike’s and Siberian offer a great selection to choose from. We have light, orange, pink, red, chartreuse colors and corn, shrimp and garlic scents.”

Red Egg Craze

Meanwhile, Kelley’s family is responsible for the red egg craze. Kelley’s ancestors dyed the eggs red more than a half-century ago, simply because red bought the customer better than natural colors did. To this day, Pautzke has sold more than 87 million jars of red salmon eggs as bait and the fad is showing no signs of weakening. Natural colors, nevertheless, make up only a fraction of sales. 

“Natural colored eggs are of an orange and/or yellow color and there are days that fish will not bite on anything else,” Kelley says. “But there is something to do with dyeing them red. Not only can it be more attractive to the consumer on the shelf, studies have shown that fish are attracted to the color red.”

Rigs for Salmon Eggs 

To use salmon eggs as bait, they can be pitched into any stream, river, creek or brook where trout are found. There isn’t a single place they won’t work. However, naturally presenting them is a must.

Unlike dough baits, salmon eggs aren’t meant to float. Try not to fish them like dough bait. Helping them drift with the current the same way one would float without a hook is bound to be effective. This is achieved with a split-shot or small float, all of which depends on depth, current and volume. 

Fishing With Salmon Eggs as Bait

Nonetheless, anglers must read the current to fish salmon eggs as bait properly. Trout are found in pools, behind rocks, underneath ledges and overhanging brush, on seams, in riffles and these are the places you’ll want to cast upstream and allow the egg to float through. 

Natural Bait is Best for Stream Trout Fishing

“If there are trout in waters that don’t eat salmon eggs as bait, I haven’t found one yet! All fish have to eat and naturally, there is a biological instinct and attraction to salmon/trout eggs,” Kelley says. “I find the best way to fish salmon eggs as bait, is with a single egg hook, drifted in streams and small rivers where the eggs would be found naturally. Now, obviously eggs can be fished, and are highly effective, in reservoirs, lakes and ponds, whether or not the fish has been planted or is a native fish naturally moving through the area.” 

Line Selection 

While many anglers don’t look beyond the actual salmon eggs, doing so can boost catch rates. Choosing the proper hooks to use and catering line selection to the body of water you are fishing can raise catch rates dramatically. 

Professional Recommendations

Don Newman, VP of Sales and Marketing for P-Line stresses the use of pertinent line when using salmon eggs in rivers, streams and creeks. Newman’s recommendations on deciding between monofilament and fluorocarbon should be taken seriously. 

The Benefits of using Fluorocarbon Line

“I prefer P-Line’s CFX Fluorocarbon to mono line for several reasons. The first, being the most obvious advantage, is invisibility. When I’m stream trout fishing in clear conditions, fluorocarbon will get a bit better than a standard monofilament leader,” explains Newman.

“Another reason I like fluorocarbon is because it is stiff, which makes it much easier to push the line back through the eye of the hook on an egg loop. Abrasion resistance is also a key reason to use fluorocarbon. When drift fishing with eggs you’re constantly coming into contact with woody debris, willow lined banks and both rocks and boulders. Snags and abrasion are just part of the sport and fluorocarbon leader does a much better job of holding up to this type of abuse.”

Braided Line

Oddly enough, braided and super lines haven’t been exposed to small stream egg anglers the way other applications have embraced them. Meanwhile, Newman believes fishermen using salmon eggs will soon discover braid is a worthy alternative. 

“When drift fishing with eggs some anglers prefer braid because of the sensitivity. I personally prefer a good quality copolymer line like our CX Premium, which has great castability,” adds Newman. “If I’m floating, I do prefer using Hydrofloat because of its buoyancy, which allows me to see the line on the surface. The other benefit is on long drifts, the near zero stretch factor of Hydrofloat allows me to set the hook with good power from a long distance. “

Finding the Right Pound Test Fishing Setup

 Pinpointing the perfect pound test or diameter fishing line to use when targeting stream trout can be a chore. Some experts believe a four-pound test is a perfect medium whereas others argue two-pound test is necessary in clear conditions. Newman, on the contrary, takes a much different path than most anglers who are veterans when it comes to trout fishing with salmon eggs as bait. 

“When conditions are low and clear and the fish have been pressured there is an advantage to using light line and small presentations. Under these conditions, I’ll drop down to a small eight-pound test main line and in this situation I prefer CX-Premium because of its castability,” he says.

“For the leader I’ll use four-pound CFX Fluorocarbon tied to a No. 10 or 12 sized hook. I’ll fish this with a single split shot and a single salmon egg. There have been more than a few occasions when a stealthy single egg fished on light line has saved the day for me. I don’t prefer using anything lighter than four-pound because I release most of my fish, and a lighter line means a longer fight and more stress on the fish.”

Choosing Proper Hooks

One of the most common mistakes anglers make when fishing salmon eggs is employing hooks that are much larger than are necessary. Keep in mind, trout have relatively small mouths and a large hook isn’t necessary to gain a proper hook set. In fact, smaller hooks tend to pave the way for greater catch rates. 

Hook Size for Egg Fishing

“Angler’s should always match their hook size to the egg size. Keep in mind you are looking for a natural presentation to wary trout, presenting a small salmon egg as bait on a large hook may distract the fish and alert them to danger, causing them to spook away or fall down in the water column to sulk a little bit,” says Matt Gray, a hook specialist for Eagle Claw.  “Trout can be picky and finicky, and a stealthy approach offers the angler the best chance for success. Using the smallest hook you can get away with is usually the best tactic. No. 6, 8, 10, & 12 are the most popular sizes for egg hooks.”  

One Hook at a Time 

“I like to use a single salmon egg hook when fishing an egg. When a trout has decided to eat an egg, their decision is usually made with vigor and authority, leaving no doubt in the angler’s mind that he has a bite. The treble hook can be a bit overkill when fishing an egg,” exclaims Gray. “Not to mention the conservation benefits and the ease of catch and release fishing that a single hook, such as the Eagle Claw 038, offers.”

Simple is Best

Jeff Pierce, sales manager at Mustad serves up another valuable concept. “I would choose a single hook over a treble hook for single salmon egg fishing just for the sake of simplicity. It is very important to match the hook size to the size of the salmon eggs you are using. Mustad makes single salmon egg hooks in the traditional bronze finish and also in red,” notes Pierce.

“The single hook when properly matched to the size of the egg will become invisible to the most wary trout. With the hook embedded in the egg you have no barb or point exposed to snagging or catching debris in the body of water you are fishing. Using a treble hook would be very effective, however not necessary and could harm a fish with multiple points. Generally a fish that eats a single egg will inhale the egg.”

Snelled Hooks Have an Advantage

Yet, there’s more anglers should consider when choosing a match for the perfect hook.  “Using a snelled hook, such as the Eagle Claw 073 salmon egg snell, offers anglers the relief from repeatedly tying knots and also enables them to change out rigs more frequently to adjust their fishing technique to the various situations that are presented to them,” says Gray.

“Picking out an egg hook that features a slice in the shank can help keep the salmon eggs on the hook longer. The small slice, or barb, on the shank acts as a keeper for the salmon eggs, resulting in a noticeable difference in the longevity of bait.”

Rod Selection for Your Fishing Setup

Determine the Right Rod Size

Hooks and line are important when it comes to properly fishing salmon eggs. Nonetheless, John Posey of Lamiglas cautions anglers not to overlook using rods best suited for casting and drifting salmon eggs.  “Some anglers use shorter rods, but I would go for a longer rod, like a 8 ½ to -9 ½ foot, light action. This allows for better line control, the ability to fish light lines and cast so that your bait (salmon eggs) won’t come off the hook,” he says.

“There’s no advantage to a shorter rod. Although shorter rods are better from a boat, longer rods are more versatile for small streams.  However, if you’re fishing in really tight quarters and need to put your eggs in a small pool, then a shorter rod can be more beneficial.”

Rod Sensitivity

Scaling down the rod’s sensitivity can be helpful. Trout tend to be sensitive biters and a delicate rod that lends to a soft tip can help anglers detect strikes while stream trout fishing. 

“Sensitivity is always important as that trout bite can be not much more than a slight mouthing of the eggs when you’re using salmon eggs as bait,” explains Posey. “It is important to be able to feel what is happening at the end of your line.”

Original Article By Lake Ontario Outdoor Magazine Staff

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