Brined Bait The Key For Lake Ontario Salmon

By: Kevin Davis

Every year we catch salmon on flies and spoons in Lake Ontario. Some years we get them on bait, too. For the last few seasons the bait bite has fair to good. However, all the sudden this summer the bite bait is on fire. Bait has been out fishing other methods 5-1. In fact, the bait bite has been so good retailers have been running out of cut bait. No one bought enough for the season (even the charters). I’ve gone through more than double the amount of cut bait this year over last year already and there’s still a month left in the season.

This has been one of the best years I’ve ever seen on Lake Ontario. We not only have large salmon, but we have all year classes, which means great things for our future. Many days we’ll catch a four-man limit in a few hours. And, not only are we catching lots of salmon. We’re catching big salmon, too. A large number of our fish are coming on Fire Brine herring and alewives. Anyone that trolls knows that you have to brine bait first. Doing so preserves the scales, makes the bait shine and toughens it up so it doesn’t pull apart when you troll it. I’ve used Fire Brine to brine my bait for many years now and have used more bottles this year than ever.


It’s been tough to find Fire Brine because everyone has been using it and most of the retailers have been sold out this summer. More people have been brined bait for salmon this year than they have in the last five years. It’s the hot bait. Everyone is using it. Sometimes we can’t get a bite on a fly and can’t get a bite on a spoon, but you put bait down there and you catch them all day long.


Brining Is Fool Proof

Contents: Store Bought Herring/Alewives, Fire Brine, Tupperware

Step 1: Drop alewives/herring (any cut bait) in Tupperware and pour enough brine in with them so it covers the bait. I also add Kosher salt to toughen them up further.

Step 2: Let bait sit for 24 hours to allow brine to work. (I take the Tupperware and put it in the fridge.)

After 24 hours they are ready to use or freeze for later use. I’ve frozen them in the brine with and without the liquid in them. Both is effective. Make sure to keep refrigerated, if you don’t freeze them.


Davis’ Extra Tip:

Alewives can be a challenge to work with sometimes. When you use store bought alewives they tend to be soft and need to be toughened up further. What I do is after I brine them I add distilled water and powdered milk overnight to toughen the bait up further. However, when using herring, and other cut baits, this isn’t necessary.

Color Cheat Sheet:

Knowing what color brined bait to use each day is critical to success. A lot of days the color has been huge. I always have all four colors in my boat because conditions change a lot on this lake. Below is a general outline for what colors to use when:

Green Fire Brine – works all day

Chartreuse Fire Brine – best on sunny days

Natural Fire Brine – been our top producer this season

Blue Fire Brine – ideal for rainy/overcast days



– This season I’ve used Gold Fire Dye on strips of bait and it’s produced, too. You don’t have to use much to achieve this color.


– All my brined baits are placed in a Rhys Davis Large Teaser Head and fished on 30-pound fluorocarbon Seager leader.

Editor’s Note: Pautzke pro Kevin Davis operates Catch The Drift out of Oswego, New York and guides Lake Ontario during the summer months. For more info on his trips please visit