By Kyle Buck | 03/19/2013
It’s no secret that fresh spawn tied in sacks is the most popular method for targeting Great Lakes steelhead. While there are many ways to do this, I’d like to share mine. This is a quick and easy way, that’s virtually mess free and produces a great egg crafted for steelhead. If I’m fishing for salmon, however, I’ll use a different recipe. We’ll focus on that at a later time.
This step-by-step process will give you bait steelhead crave. Prior to handling any eggs or tying spawn I always wear rubber gloves. The gloves serve two purposes: they keep my hands from getting fishy, smelly and drying and also keep human scent off the bait.
Start with a skein and remove eggs. I do this by using a quarter-inch hardware mesh screen that we’ve formed over a Tupperware container, which serves as a catch basin.
On the bottom of the Tupperware I like to add a paper plate along with a couple towels on top of it. What this does is absorbs any blood that’s left on the eggs.
To remove the eggs place the skein on the screen, egg side down. In small circles, slowly rub the skein on the top of the screen, thus allowing the eggs to break free of the skein membrane. The eggs will fall through onto the paper towels.
The nice thing about using the screen is you don’t break any eggs like you might when using other methods. There will be a few eggs remaining on the membrane; nevertheless, these aren’t the premium eggs, rather the poorer quality eggs, normally with a lot of blood in them. It’s ok to leave these and discard them with the skein membrane.
Once the eggs are removed from the membrane and resting in the Tupperware remove the screen to provide access to the eggs. What I usually like to do is spread the eggs around on the paper towel. Then transfer them onto a clean paper towel.
Then, grab another paper towel, wad it up and use it to remove all excess blood from the eggs. The objective is to have a blood free egg. By using the paper towel to lightly roll on the egg you’ll remove all excess blood fragments from the loose eggs.
At this point your eggs should be clean and blood free. It’s time to dump them into a Ziploc bag. When I’m curing eggs for steelhead, I like using Natural BorX O Fire, but there are times when I also mix it with FireCure, FireBrine and sometimes use other colors of BorX O Fire, particular orange and pink. Using BorX O Fire is fool proof. Simply take the BorX O Fire and sprinkle it into the bag. The nice thing about BorX O Fire is that you can’t burn your eggs with it.
Note: When fishing stained or dirty water I tend to add more of the cure whereas when we are fishing clearer water I’ll use less. By adding more cure you get a egg that milks more. The great thing about BorX O Fire is you can tie the eggs into spawn sacks immediately. One thing nice about the BorX O Fire is it doesn’t make your eggs really sticky. It makes them easy to work with.
Many add scent to their cure. Since we are fishing for steelhead I’ll add a teaspoon of sugar. Keep in mind, steelhead have a sweet tooth, so sugar is an additive they key in on. At this time you can add scent, too. Sometimes, I’ll add Fire Power (krill powder) because in dirty water scent is important. With visibility less they’ll key in on smell more.
It’s time to make your spawn sacks. To do so you’ll need Spider Thread and precut nylon spawn sack square mesh. There are some people who like tying it with big scarfs, but I feel it’s much easier for me to tie them with the following steps.
The first thing I do is take a large piece of paper or cardboard. The paper I find that works well and is cheap is a big yearly desk calendar. This way you wont make a mess. Lie out the squares on the paper; grab your Ziploc full of loose eggs and two plastic spoons.
One spoon is used to dip the eggs out of the bag. With the other spoon I can spread a small number of eggs onto each mesh square. At this point you can also add small foam or floaters. We do this primarily when we are back bouncing because it allows the bait to float off the bottom.
A quick tip: to add the foam balls all I do is lick my finger, put it in the small bag of floater balls and a few floater balls will stick to my finger. Then, all you have to do is touch the eggs and the balls will stick to them. When we are float fishing, however, there’s no need to add the float balls.
Now it’s time to use Spider Thread. The reason I like this thread is because it’s extremely stretchy and quick and easy to use. I take a cheap fly tying vise and clamp it on the table upside down. What this does is leaves the bottom post of the vise sticking up in the air. The spool of Spider Thread slides over the post. What this does is makes it so the thread spins freely and doesn’t roll around the table. I can simply pull the thread as needed.
To start tying pinch the corners of the netting, pinch all four corners together. Once they are pinched together I’ll take my other hand and spin the entire sack slowly until it tightens up into a ball.
Grab your thread and do three wraps around the twisted portion of the mesh. Pull tight. Then do another three wraps and pull tight again. Then you can yank and break the thread. This sack is now done. Set it aside and go to the next one. I don’t do any trimming until all my sacks are tied. Keep in mind, there’s no need to tie a knot with the thread. It’s designed to work without being tied in a knot.
One sacks are tied, it’s time to trim them. One thing that’s very important is using sharp scissors. I hold the loose mesh material between my pointer finger and thumb, while holding the sack portion between my middle and ring fingers. Then cut the excess mesh above your wrapped Spider Thread.
The sacks are now ready to fish. If I’m going to use them in the next few days I’ll put them in a small Tupperware container. If I’m not going to use them within a few days I’ll put them in a glass jar. One thing that’s important is to always date them and label them with what cures you used. I keep a log of what the labeling is and how each cure is working.
Special note: When storing spawn sacks if I’m going to fish them within a week I’ll keep them in the fridge. However, if I’m not, I throw a paper towel in the glass jar over the eggs, seal tightly and put them in the freezer. They should last at least a year in the freezer. When you go to thaw them make sure to do it slow. Transfer jar from the freeze to the fridge and allow them to thaw over a few days because if they thaw too quickly they’ll turn to mush.
Editor’s Note: Kyle Buck owns and operates Great Lakes Guide Service. For more info on his trips please visit www.greatlakesguideservice.com