By: James Swearingen
Salmon fever is high in the Great Lakes. Many of us are drifting skein or sacks under a float and catching lots of king salmon. Meanwhile, this time of year when we catch Great Lakes salmon most of the skeins are still tight and immature. Because of this many of the salmon eggs I get now I save for winter steelhead and trout fishing.
Egg curing recipes are everywhere. However, I’m going to go over how I like to prepare my Chinook (and coho eggs) for winter fishing. This is a different method than I use for fall salmon. Meanwhile, many of us are now saving our eggs for winter fishing, which is where this technique comes in.
I use Fire Brine on these immature eggs because the eggs absorb the brine and it gives them a fuller profile when tying them into spawn bags for brown trout and steelhead. This is a two-step process that includes Fire Brine and BorX O Fire. I use both because the Fire Brine plumps up the eggs whereas the BorX O Fire toughens up the membrane, makes it more durable, adds scent and milks well.
The below process is my go-to recipe and will work everywhere in the Great Lakes (and in Western Canada where anglers also use sacks).
The UV Cure for Winter Steelhead/Trout
Step 1: The Scrape
Start with blood-free skeins. Then scrape the eggs out of the skein. I do this with a plastic spoon. FYI: When the eggs in the skein are immature they have dimples in them, which is common. Don’t worry. The dimples disappear later in this process.
Step 2: Add Brine
After I scape the eggs I’ll put them in a bag or container and fill them with whatever color of Fire Brine I choose. For steelhead and brown trout I normally use Natural, Orange or Pink Fire Brine. Pour in just enough brine to cover the eggs. It’s important to leave enough room for them to expand, as they will during this process. Normally, these eggs start out at a 6mm size when immature. However, after soaking in the brine they’ll grow to 8mm size, which is perfect for egg sacks/spawn bags.
Step 3: Let Soak
Let the eggs sit in the brine overnight: 12-24 hours is best depending on how bright you want the eggs. Once they soak in the brine they’ll get UV properties (yes, even natural) and absorb the color from the brine.
The longer you keep them in the brine the deeper, richer colors the eggs take on. If you want a subtle color let them sit for 12 hours. If you want a deep color soak them for 24 hours.
Step 4: Strain
Take the eggs out of the brine and place them in a strainer. Then I rinse them off with bottled water (distilled or spring water) because I don’t want the chlorine or fluoride from tap water on my eggs. This rinses excess juices off and stops the brining process.
Step 5: Dusting Time
Place the eggs in a bag and dust them off with BorX O Fire to toughen up the egg membrane. I use whatever color the eggs are. For example, if I use Pink Fire Brine I’ll use Pink BorX O Fire or Red Fire Brine and Red BorX O Fire and so on. Let them sit in the BorX O Fire for 12 hours.
Keep in mind for trout and steelhead I prefer BorX O Fire because trout and steelhead have a sweet tooth. Borax is a sweeter cure than Fire Cure, which is a hot, sulfite based cure. When using BorX O Fire I normally coat the eggs with it. The good news is unlike Fire Cure you can’t ruin your eggs with Borx O Fire so don’t be afraid to be liberal with it. You aren’t going to hurt the eggs.
*Special Note: If I’m going to fish clear water I’ll use Natural BorX O Fire because I like the eggs to have a more translucent look rather than the deep color you get from the colored BorX O Fire.
Step 6: Tie Em Up
Once the BorX O Fire does its job I’ll take them out of the bag and place them on paper towels to soak up excess juice.
Then I’ll start tying them in bags. On low and clear days I’ll use five eggs per bag. Meanwhile, in high or muddy water I’ll use seven or eight eggs in the bag to give it a greater profile.
Editor’s Note: James Swearingen is the founder of Steel City Anglers. For more information on his page please visit https://www.facebook.com/SteelCityAngler412
(Below, eggs brined/cured in the above process described.)