Change Cut Bait Colors on Demand with Fire Dye

By: Mike Ainsworth

At the start of springer season, lower than normal water and clearer water than we’ve seen in the past few years on the Columbia River had me focused on running mostly Natural Fire Brine herring. The water is still clear. However, we’ve been catching them on blue herring and other colors daily. Oddly enough, one of the springers we caught had chartreuse dyed herring in its stomach, so obviously that color is working too.

One key to success is having a variety of colors available to troll. With that said I continue to brine my baits in Natural Fire Brine. However, having Fire Dye on my boat this year has allowed me to be more versatile. This allows me to change colors on demand, especially if you see other boats catching fish on different colors.


When trolling for springers it’s crucial to change things up and experiment with different colors. Being able to change that bait from natural to other colors is imperative. Natural is good on bright sunny days, but isn’t always the best on an overcast or rainy day. Being able to change it at will is a big game changer.

Blue is one of the best colors in deeper, darker water. At first light and on overcast days blue herring is going to stand out best in the UV spectrum. I’ve done best with chartreuse in dirtier water, but if you go with the phrase bright day and bright color you’d use chartreuse on a sunny day. A lot guys do that. Don’t shy away from the purples or the reds either because those are dark colors that work on dark days.


What I like about having the Fire Dye on the boat is if I see other boats catching salmon on red, blue, chartreuse or other colors I can grab a bottle, squirt in some Fire Dye and within five minutes I’ll be able to run that color as well. This way if I run out of one color I can transform natural into any color I want within having to go to the bank and get another batch going.

I’d recommend keeping Ziplocs on the boat. This way you don’t have to squirt the Fire Dye into your bag of natural baits and contaminate that bait. Instead, you can grab a few out of the bag and dye a few at a time. That allows you to experiment and try different colors without ruining the natural baits you’ve brined already.


It doesn’t take much Fire Dye to color the bait on the spot. I would say roughly a tablespoon of Fire Dye colors a half dozen already brined Natural Fire Brine herring. All my Ziplocs that I carry on the boat are gallon size and you’ll have to tumble them into the dye to get them full covered. Technically, you can pump one squeeze of the bottle and squirt it in the bag and the job will be done in a matter of minutes. You don’t have to be exact.


Editor’s Note: Mike Ainsworth runs First Light Guide Service. For more info on his Columbia River springer trips please visit