Learing To Choose Quality Cut Bait – And, What To Do With Marginal Cut Bait When The Good Stuff Isn’t Available

By Paul LeFebvre | 09/17/2012

As I continue to network with good salmon fishermen in the Pacific Northwest one thing I keep finding is guys are very picky about their bait. Careful attention is paid to how the baits are prepared, packaged and handled during use. This holds true here in Southern Oregon, too. I take painstaking care in selecting my baits and when I find the right bait I buy it by the case. Here are some points about good bait selection.

Blog6Chris Anchovie2

Exceptional bait is starved in pens before it is euthanized. The reason for this is because starved baits are firmer and easier to work with. Grey’s Harbor baits are excellent and are prepared seasonally each year. What I try to do is to get cases that are off of the second or third lots so the anchovies are a solid 5.5” – 6” inches in length. Buying two cases at this time usually keeps me going through my Springer and fall Chinook season. I re-purchase in the fall during bait harvest.

Blog5Chris Anchovie2

Figure 1: Vacuum packed 6” anchovies from the 2011 Grey’s Harbor fall bait run.
Although somewhat expensive, starting with quality bait is important. I buy trayed bait primarily because of the quality, but also because so called “bag bait”, which is about one third the cost, contains a majority of baits that are damaged. In bag bait as the baits move against each other in transit tails and fins flake off, scales are rubbed off, size is inconsistent and baits are bent and contorted. In sharp contrast notice that the trayed baits have all of their scales intact, are nicely arrayed to prevent damage and vacuum packed to retain freshness.

The eyes are black, which is an indication that the baits have not been frozen for long and kept at the right temperature. A big cautionary note with trayed baits is to make sure that you puncture the seal before defrosting otherwise the baits will bleed out as they defrost. One can use these tips to buy individual trays from the store, but often you don’t know what you are getting in terms of age.

Shown below is a tray of bait that is in sharp contrast to the bait shown above.


Blog1Chris Anchovie2

Figure 2: A tray of purchased anchovies that will require Fire Brine before use.
The trayed bait shown above has baits that are damaged within it. There are too many individual baits in the package causing crowding, hence damaging them. The tray has been previously thawed as we can tell from the blood that excreted during thawing. The blood has turned brown with age. These baits will bleed brown blood.

Over the years we have found that bait that is fresh, pristine, and bleeds “red” blood produces more strikes than lesser quality bait. I check for proper bleeding using a gentle squeeze near the anus every 30 minutes and if bait stops bleeding it is changed. We often start a fishing session with our best baits possible, but most times we are left with extra baits that will not be used until another session, particularly if the fishing is slow. Now we can’t be throwing away high quality, beautiful baits each day that cost up to $6.99 per tray!!

Enter Fire Brine!!

Pautzke’s new Fire Brine product holds a key place in my salmon fishing arsenal. From saving expensive, valuable, trayed baits, to saving less than perfect bait, to experimenting with different colors when fish won’t hit -you will want to have a variety of colors around to work with, especially green.

We inventory our left over baits daily. They go in Fire Brine in a one quart Mason jar. The storage time I have found to be indefinite so far. I prefer green, but when all else fails I will use green, blue, or chartreuse in a marine environment. There is no magic formula to use Fire Brine. Place the left over bait into a quart size jar and fill with Fire Brine right out of the plastic bottle. We store the brined bait in a refrigerator until use. The Mason jar is easy access during a fishing session and seals well.

Blog2Chris Anchovie2

Figure 3: A mason jar of left over baits has pretty good utility for brining and storing baits.

I have also found that the baits shown in figure 2 could be recovered (to some extent) after storing them in Fire Brine for a day or two. Although we prefer good bait to start with, when you run out and are in the middle of a wide open bite, like we were last Saturday, they will do in a pinch.

Interestingly, we started last Saturday with a spread of four rods and all new baits except for my grandson Joey (of course) who decided to run green Fire Brined bait on his rod. Five minutes into fishing and he had a 25# plus king in the box. Mike Shultz then switched out and caught fish. The next thing you know we were running all green Fire Brine baits and nailing the fish. We must have had 20 hookups while cleaning out two jars of green Fire Brined baits.  By the way, one jar was extra baits from the Rogue the week before. The other was “recovered” baits from a tray like the one in figure 2.

As our day continued we wound up with our limits of 8 fish by 11am. That was ok because we were out of bait anyway!

Blog3Chris Anchovie2

Figure 4: Our buddy Mike Shultz is a big believer in Fire Brine after today!

Blog4Chris Anchovie2

Figure 5: Dick Behrens and Joey LeFebvre filled out their limits on the “Green Stuff”

This fall is going to be a good year for salmon on the Southern Oregon coast. We will be using a variety of Pautzke products that have already shown excellent results for us. With about 6 weeks of troll fishery left here in Southern Oregon I want to put different Fire Brine colors to further testing, but I guarantee that if the bite is tough I will return to green, or nothing at all.

I generally recommend green and blue for marine environments and reds and orange for upstream environments although I know the silvers will be here and they like orange and pink. Good thing Fire Brine comes in a variety of colors!
Hmm, there is so much to think about and that is why fishing is fun for me. I encourage you guys to be flexible and try different things in your presentation. Like us, there will come a day when you will get a pleasant surprise when all of a sudden what you are doing lines up with what the fish want!

Tight lines from the Southern Oregon Coast.