By Andy Martin | 09/02/2010
When it comes to fall salmon in Northern California, no bait catches more big fish than bright clusters of roe, often fished with a Spin-N-Glo or Puff Ball. Back-bounced, floated below a bobber, even side-drifted, gobs of salmon eggs are like candy to big fall kings.
Many successful anglers and guides have their “secret” cure for salmon roe, many of which claim they will take the special recipes to their graves.
In recent years, commercial egg cures have gained in popularity. Simple to use and effective, commercial cures have gained favor with top guides. Perhaps the hottest cure on the market right now, Pautzke’s Fire Cure, was field tested on Northern California rivers such as the Smith, Klamath and Trinity nearly a decade ago. It’s now the go-to cure for many guides.
As a full-time guide in Oregon, Alaska and California, I’ve used Pautzke’s Fire Cure since it was first available. For fall kings, I use a mixture of pink and red Fire Cure, and add a few extra ingredients.
The cure is ready to use right out of the bottle. But I like to have eggs that are slightly different than other anglers. I mix the pink and red cures, around 50-50, for a brighter color. I then add an equal part of borax to the cure and half a part of sugar, plus a little sea salt, to a plastic bag and mix the ingredients. The borax helps eliminate mold and aids in preserving the eggs. Salmon often react to sweeter baits, plus sugar is aids in curing the eggs. A little more salt helps toughen the eggs up.
I cut the eggs into bait-size pieces and put them in a large container, then add the mixture of Fire Cure, sugar, borax and salt. After the cure is gently mixed with the eggs, I put them in a large freezer bag and allow them to cure for three days. Almost immediately the eggs will begin juicing. After several hours the eggs juice out, leaving a bag full of liquid. The next day they reabsorb the liquid, along with the cure, and often increase in size because of the added borax and sugar. It takes three days for the eggs to reabsorb all the liquid. I then dry the eggs on paper towels for 12 to 24 hours and then freeze or begin to fish them.
Scents can be added during the curing process, allowing the eggs to soak up the scent. Pautzke Krill, herring oil, sardine oil and anise oil are effective scents to add.