By: James Swearingen
There’s two ways to fish eggs in the fall for trout and steelhead: in egg sacks and as skein. It’s good to be versatile and have booth. I always have both. In fact, each is used for a different setting. Normally, spawn sacks are ideal in shallower and faster water. Meanwhile, when fishing deeper water, slower water and pools I’ll switch to skein. Skein creates a scent trail, provides visual stimulation and appeals to a trout/steelhead’s senses.
On the other hand, the sacks and skein we use for salmon isn’t the same I prefer for trout and steelhead. During salmon season when we use skein we use Fire Cure as our curing agent because salmon are more attracted to a sulfite base. However, when we cure eggs for steelhead and trout we switch to a borax/sugar base (BorX O Fire) because that’s what steelhead are more attracted to.
Let’s dive into how to cure eggs for Great Lakes trout and steelhead. In this blog I’m going to focus on curing skein. The next blog will cover making single eggs to be tied in Atlas spawn netting. These methods are super easy. Even newcomers can be successful with it.
Catch a female steelhead. Then cut the gills so the fish bleeds out. This will remove the blood from the eggs.
After we get off the water I’ll remove the skein and lay it on the paper towel. Make sure the blood is out of it. A clean dry skein out fishes a wet one. You don’t want blood or guts on it as it will contaminate your eggs.
Now it’s time to butterfly the eggs. I prefer to use scissors, however some anglers use their hands. Use what you are most comfortable with. The idea of butterflying the skein is to add more surface area for the skein to attach to and make it easier for the cure to penetrate into the middle of the skein.
Once you butterfly the eggs sprinkle BorX O Fire it one side of the skein. Then flip it over and sprinkle the other side. This time of year I use Natural, Pink or Orange BorX O Fire. Natural/orange is ideal when the water is low and clear whereas pink is best when the water is stained or has color. With BorX O Fire you can use it liberally. You don’t have to worry about it burning your eggs with it because it isn’t sulfite based.
Place the skein in the bag. Close the bag and massage the skein lightly to make sure the cure reaches all the crevices in the skein. At this point if you see portions of the skein with no cure on it add more BorX O Fire.
Let it sit at room temperature for two to three hours until the entire cure is liquid. After that, put them in the fridge and they’ll be ready in the morning. The curing process normally takes 8-10 hours. After you put them in the fridge the eggs will reabsorb the juice, which is what cures the eggs and helps them milk in the water.
At this point they are ready to fish. I cut the skein up into fishable chunks, put it in Tupperware and layer it in between napkins. Doing so before getting on the water saves lots of mess. I precut the skeins into quarter-size pieces. They tend to work best this time of year.
Editor’s Note: James Swearingen is the founder of Steel City Anglers. To follow his adventures please visit https://www.facebook.com/SteelCityAngler412.