Cooking Prawns for Steelhead


By Bob Kratzer | 01/12/2012
A few years back I was doing a steelhead fishing seminar in front of more than 200 people. I pulled out a bucket of cured prawns and a guy in the back stood up almost immediately commented on how strong their scent was. Soon, the room smelled like prawns. And, that potent smell that filled the room is equally as powerful underwater. This is one of the reasons I always keep prawns on my boat when I’m steelhead fishing.

It’s no secret that prawns have always been used by steelhead fisherman, but about seven years ago when I started using prawns I wanted to come up with more effective ways to make them tougher, smell better, etc. To me, fishing prawns is a no brainer, but many people still don’t know they are applicable for steelhead. The great thing about prawns is that they emit a strong smell. The steelhead smell it coming long before it gets to them and they are looking for it when it gets there.

There’s days that prawns outperform eggs. It’s not like this everyday, but I have both with me on most days. And, when everyone else is using eggs something different can be real good. Prawns work during the entire steelhead season and I’ll even catch salmon on them, but I also like prawns because I can go buy them at the grocery store. Anyone, anywhere can do this. Coon shrimp are great to use, but they can be tougher to find. Sometimes they can be impossible to find and they can be pricey.

Digging into my prawn recipe:
The words steelhead and eggs go hand in hand. With all the fishermen out there that chase the elusive steelhead the need for something more than just eggs is important, which is why I’m confident in drifting prawns. Over the years I’ve come up with a way to make prawns easy to cure, but also tough. I’ve used a few cures that are easy, meanwhile the one I am going to show you has become staple in for me. This cure process makes a tougher bait and brings out the smell of the prawn better than any I have come up with yet.


1 large pot
20-30 small to medium sized prawns with head on
2 quarts water
2 cups sea salt
2 cups raw sugar
2 cups Pink BorX O’ Fire

Step 1
Put all of the ingredients in a large pot and mix thoroughly.


Step 2
Put pot on a burner and bring ingredients to a boil. Let boil for ten minutes. Do not do this in the house; your wife will kill you. The smell of the prawns becomes so strong steelhead will be swimming down your driveway looking for them.

Step 3
Once boiled, dump the prawns in a strainer and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Drain for an hour. Your prawns are ready to go.


I pack my prawns in a small container and pour a small amount of rock salt over them. When I want to add egg flavor I’ll use a 1/2 bottle of Pautzke Nectar. My favorite way is to side drift them whole, but feel free to rig whole for diver and bait presentations. If you don’t have a large egg supply or are looking for a different bait try these. You won’t be disappointed.

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