By Ben See | 08/19/2013

Anglers in Steelhead Alley eagerly await the start of the 2013-2014 chrome run. This usually occurs mid September depending on stream flows and Lake Erie water temps. Many anglers will kick off their season by using roe harvested from spring steelhead or even older 2012 fall salmon from New York, Michigan and Ontario tributaries. But what if your freezer is empty of any eggs? You can still be very successful in catching early salmon and steelhead by using these tips and tricks.

While shrimp may not be considered a staple in a steelhead or salmons diet, we can inject it with cure to create a bait that is super effective and deadly. Uncooked shrimp is readily available at your local grocery store which makes this recipe a life saver in the event you are out of eggs anytime of the year.



The predominant method of fishing with bait here in Steelhead Alley is via spawn sacs. While the process to tie sacs is tedious and lengthy the benefits are significant.


50 Uncooked Shrimp “produces approx. 100 sacs”

Fire Brine

Fire Powder

BorX O’ Fire

Add Sugar “for Steelhead”

Add Fire Cure “for Salmon”

Plastic Mixing Containers



Step 1:

Depending on how many color combinations you would like to make, equally separate out your uncooked shrimp into the mixing containers. In this demonstration I am making 4 colors. Shrimp shells left on is ok, while peeling the shell off prior to curing will result in a deeper color and scent penetration.


Step 2:

Add your powder ingredients into the container. The amount of BorX O’ Fire and or Fire Cure used is approx. ¼ cup sprinkled over the shrimp. Fire Powder is used to kick up the krill concentration. A little krill goes a long way. Dust the shrimp with powdered krill.

Step 3:

Pour Fire Brine into containers and mix well. Your slurry is now taking shape. Stir until powder is dissolved.


Step 4:

For steelhead, they seem to be attracted to a sweeter cure so I use sugar to sweeten the brine. I add 1 teaspoon to the slurry. For salmon, I use Fire Cure with no added sugar.


Step 5:

Seal the containers and place in the fridge for 24 hours. Swirl the brine around a bit throughout the 24 hour period. This will help ensure all surfaces of the shrimp are being cured.


Step 6:

After 24 hours, if you have not already peeled off the shells you can do so now. Slice the shrimp into smaller bits. This will allow us an easier time during the spawn sac making. I usually get 2 sacs per shrimp.


Step 7.

Tie your sacs as you normally would have done with roe. Matching the colored mesh netting with the color of brine used will enhance the sac color and make it very vibrant. Dime and nickle sized sacs are the ones I have most success with.


Step #8.

Place sacs into ziplock bags and freeze. They can be put in the fridge as well but they are very pungent of krill and all the goodness of your brine. Mason jars are an option if you have no room in your freezer. I freeze all of my cured sacs for longevity purposes.




  • When it is time to go fishing, you can use these sacs in the same manner as you have done with roe.
  • Once the color has milked out of the sac, put on a new one. You still have 99 more.
  • Freezing bait is advised if you won’t be using them in the near future.
  • Creating vibrant color combinations using brine in conjunction with powder takes practice. You will be making colors look like nuclear candy in short order.
  • Latex gloves are recommended as powder and brine will stain skin.
  • Having some shrimp sacs on hand even when you are fishing roe is a good idea.


Final Thoughts:

The reason this method works is due to the fact that the shrimp is a carrier of the scents we added like the krill and the salts and sugars of the brine.   Uncooked shrimp is readily available, but this same recipe can be used for smelt as well.

I have used these shrimp sacs all across the Steelhead Alley region and into Canada. Whether they are steelhead, brown trout or chinook salmon, all have fallen prey to this cure.

I am a firm believer in bait care and preparation. While the process of brining bait is pretty straight forward, the attention to details while curing will ultimately make a better product. Take care of your bait and it will take care of you.

Like a culinary artist becomes proficient in their trade, a bait fisherman can become an artist in his own right with practice. Creating effective color and scent combinations can make the difference between a good day on the water and a great day on the water.

Editor’s Note: For more information on See please visit Steelhead Alley Angler