Learn How to Brine & Rig Bait for West Coast Salmon

By: Scott Feist

There’s an extreme bait shortage of quality baits, especially anchovies, on the West Coast this summer. Whether you are a guide or private boater the name of the game for salmon on the coast is having quality bait. Because of this the need to preserve the bait you have and make it last is more important than ever. I preserve mine with Fire Brine.

Brining bait is nothing new to salmon anglers. We all go through the exercise because brined bait will last a long longer than un-brined bait. In fact, it preserves the bait for a lot longer. If you don’t brine the trayed bait properly it could potentially blow apart or rip, the head can crack and the guts could blow out. Brining prolongs those things and brings confidence in your bait.

The reason I use Fire Brine is to toughen up the bait. What’s perfect about the Fire Brine is it’s not extra hot, meaning you aren’t going to smoke your bait and over harden them like you would with rock salt, which can over dry them. Fire Brine is very forgiving. Regardless if you are using an anchovy, sardine or herring tray bait it’s important for myself to make these baits last. The more time I’m spending rigging and changing out bait is the less time I’m spending fishing.

There’s not much to explain about brining. It’s as simple as this. I lay my bait in a tray and soak them in Fire Brine. That’s it. There’s no secrets or tricks. I typically like to cover the baits with the liquid and let them do their thing. They start curing immediately. I literally could start fishing those baits within 20 minutes, as a thawing bait will start to absorb the brine right away. However, it doesn’t hurt the bait leave them in the brine.

At the end of my guide trip I leave the leftover baits in the solution for the next day. They’ll soak in the brine overnight in my ice cooler. Those are the baits we start off with the next morning. Now if you just use pure rock salt they would shrivel up and turn hard. With the brine they don’t do that. We don’t have to go deep though a how to. It’s this simple. You put the bait in the brine, let it soak and troll it. I like Natural Fire Brine because it doesn’t color the bait and keeps it natural, but that being said Blue & Chartreuse Fire Brine work well and there’s a ton of guys using them. I just prefer clear for the particular fishery I’m guiding on.

Rigging 101

Step 1: Brine Bait (discussed above)

Step 2: Start the Bait Threader

I thread through the bait with a bait threader. I start through the mouth, then go through the body and out the butt. The reason I do this is to pull my leader through the body of the fish. I pull it through the body because on the end of the leader I have a loop knot where I attach a Gamataksu 2/0 round bend treble hook.

Step: 3: Secure the Treble

I pierce the treble into the backbone of the anchovy.

Step 4: Secure the Octopus

My leaders are tied with a No. 1 sliding octopus front hook. I pierce it under the jaw and poke the tip of the hook out between the eyes.

Step 5: Dial in the Roll

I will pull the leader away from the hook to get my desired bend in the anchovy. I like a banana shape. I don’t want the roll to be super tight, but a medium roll. The more you pull the leader away from the hook, the more you bend and the wider the roll will be. Adjust it and see how it works for you. Some days the fish like a tighter roll and others a wider roll.

The bottom line is there isn’t a product better on the market than the Fire Brine for preserving and curing your frozen trayed bait. Put it on your anchovies, sardines or herring this summer and fall and get more out of your baits – like I do.


Editor’s Note: Scott Feist operates Feisty Fish Guide Service. For more info on his guided salmon trips please visit https://feistyfish.net/ or https://www.facebook.com/FeistyFishGuideService/.