A Hot Salmon Cure – From The Alaskan Bush

By | 07/31/2012

Everyone is looking for the ultimate salmon cure. However, I believe there’s a time and place for several different ultimate cures. There’s no one egg cure that applies to every type of technique/water you are going to fish. Whether back-trolling divers and bait or dragging eggs downriver, I wouldn’t use the same egg cure and in this blog I’m going to explain why.


Back Trolling Eggs

Back trolling eggs is effective in higher, faster flowing water. Consider how this method is perfected: by pointing the bow of your boat upstream and backing the boat downriver, slower than current speed you are holding, your bait drifts in front of the salmon’s face and it swims upriver. This technique is best fished by back-trolling running lanes where salmon are concentrated. When I back-troll I prefer a juicy egg that milks out well. Milking is imperative because the fish have lots of time to inspect the eggs before they commit to biting them.

Dragging eggs

Dragging eggs is a technique that we use often in Alaska. It’s done by turning the boat sideways in the current and casting lines upstream. The current then pulls the boat and bait downriver. When I do this, I turn to a slinky with about 12-shots, and a four-to-five-foot leader with two hooks and a larger Corky in the middle. This allows the cluster of eggs to suspend in front of the fish as we drag the bait down in front of them. When I drag eggs, I’m looking for a more firm “Hotter” cured egg. The hotter egg enables multiple casts and keeps the bait on longer. We us this technique to cover water quicker and find more active fish.


Egg Curing

Here in Alaska we have to cure eggs fast and readily have them on hand. We don’t have time to wait for eggs to sit and cure for a week or even a couple days. I definitely cure eggs differently in Alaska where I use a high salt-based cure then I would back home in Oregon. Early in the season I use less salt and add more as the season progresses.

Fresh fish, straight out of the ocean, aren’t as salt deficient as a fish coming later in the run. As they enter the river system some blast through, while others hang around in the bay before entering. Early in the run most salmon are chrome bright. These fish came in with the tide and straight into the system.

As the run progresses salmon go through a metabolic change. Their bodies start to decompose. As internal nutrients deplete and they near spawning, their bodies decompose quicker. Consequently, later in the run I use a very “Hot” cure with lots of salt.

Pautzke’s FireCure is a sodium sulfite based cure. Sodium sulfite is a salt preservative. Consider that as salmon enter freshwater their bodies become more deprived of salt. Therefore, survival mode triggers them to seek chemicals in their body that are being depleted. A salmon can smell one part per million. They smell all the chemicals/scent in your eggs.

FireCure also contains a high content of krill, which is a main part of their diet in the ocean. That being said, this is the main reason I add even more salt to the eggs during the curing process. Meanwhile, be careful not to add too much salt to the eggs, or you’ll burn them.

The ideal egg I’m looking for is when I can grab a single egg from the skein, pinch it and watch it burst. If you pinch it and it just oozes on your hand the berries aren’t full of cure yet. When salmon chomp on my bait I want the eggs to be bursting in its’ mouth and showering the ingredients all over its mouth so they keep eating it. This is the case on the Nushagak River (where I guide). As large as it is we need a strong scent, which is achieved by using a hot cure like this.


Egg Curing Process: Lynch’s Alaskan Egg Cure

Red Fire Cure
Sodium Sulfite- ½ cup per pound of eggs
Sea Salt- ½ cup per pound of eggs
Sodium Metabisulfite ¼ cup per pound of eggs.

Step 1:

I start out by cutting skeins into four chunks and laying them berry side up on a tray. Then, I pour the sea salt evenly distributed throughout the bait.

Step 2:

Let sea salt sit on the eggs for two minutes. Then, add the sulfite and metabisulfite.

Step 3:

Let sit for two more minutes. Then, sprinkle a layer of red FireCure across the top of the eggs.

Step 4:

Roll skeins around the tray to make sure the cure is even throughout the eggs.

Step 5:

Place skeins in gallon Ziploc. The eggs start juicing out and creating a large water content. As the curing process progress the membranes in the eggs reabsorb the juice into the berries. After it does they are ready to fish. This normally takes 10-12 hours.


Tip: Make sure you wear latex gloves while handling eggs to ensure that no human sent is transferred to your eggs. This also prevents cure from staining your hands.

Editor’s Note: Chad Lynch is wrote this blog from the porch at Alaska’s Bear Claw Lodge. To learn more please visit www.bearclawlodge.com