By Chris Shaffer | 06/22/2012
At the time I couldn’t have been more bored. We’d trolled for nearly two hours for Coho without a strike. Surrounded by a dozen boats and trolling under the Highway 162 Bridge that extends across Northern California’s Lake Oroville I put my Blackberry down, walked over to Rick Kennedy and asked him a question.
“Rick, enough with all this hardware. I came here to test brined bait. Can you please put some anchovy strips out there?” I said. “If we aren’t going to catch anything let’s at least experiment.”
Within minutes, Kennedy a Pautzke pro staffer and owner of Tight Lines Guide Service, was changing assortments, most notably adding thinly sliced anchovy fillets to his favorite P-Line Sunshine Squid. The night before he’d brined the anchovy with Pautzke’s blue/natural Fire Brine. For some reason, Kennedy prefers to mix the two when brining. He also patted the fillet in Fire Power (pure krill powder) right before putting in on the hook.
“Is that what you want, Grasshopper?” Kennedy said to me with a smirk on his face. Grasshopper implied that I was new to this- and was trying to give advice to a guide who’s been guiding since I was in high school. He joked that I hadn’t fished the lake in a decade.
I smiled back at Kennedy. Kennedy has been on our pro staff close to a decade now, so we know each other pretty well and get along great, even though he dwarfs me by a few feet. Less than 30 seconds later, we had our first Coho in the boat.
“And, you wanted to troll lures and dodgers and lures all day?” I said to him, laughing.
“Yes,” he said. “I wanted to show you how easy it was to catch these Coho with brined bait. I had to emphasize how well bait works; so not catching anything without it for two hours did the trick, didn’t it? Bait is the key ingredient up here.”
Sure Rick, I said, chuckling.
“Well, listen to the radio. You hear the other guys talking. Everyone is just dragging lures. No one else is using bait right now,” he said to me.
And, no one else was catching fish.
In the next hour we caught limits of Coho on the Fire Brined bait. All the fish were almost identical: silver, fat and 18-20 inches.
“It’s all about the scent. It’s just a little tiny strip of anchovy or you can use herring, too,” Kennedy explained. “The bottom line is that you are putting some bait out there and the color and scent is drawing those Coho in. You can catch them without bait. Guys do it all the time, but you’ll catch many more with bait.”
Good brines, like Fire Brine (along with Kennedy’s personal enhancement recipe) toughen, add more scent and bite stimulants, make it shinier and also prolong the life of the bait. (See below for Kennedy’s personal brine mix.).
Oroville’s Coho bite is nearing its peak, but there’s plenty of time to cash in on the action. In July, troll beneath the Highway 162 Bridge. Meanwhile, early in the morning is always good in front of the Spillway Launch Ramp. The dam area and from that ramp to Goose Island tend to frequently harbor the Coho, too.
We fished 60 feet, however, throughout July these fish will likely go deeper as water temperatures increase. Pay attention to your depth finder and focus on 60-100 feet.
They’ll also get bigger.
“Late in the summer and early fall it’s not uncommon to catch them up to four pounds. They are growing about an inch per month,” Kennedy says. “Keep in mind the bite will last through October.”
*Kennedy’s Fool-Proof Coho/Inland Chinook Bait Brine*
Bait (Sardines, Herring, Anchovy)
Fire Brine (Chartreuse, Blue and Natural Fire Brine)
Step 1: Please fresh bait in Ziploc bag and pour a half-bottle of Fire Brine in to bag. The half bottle will brine 12 herring/anchovy, etc.
Note: Kennedy uses ½ blue and ½ natural Fire Brine. However, if you want blue colored herring you can get away with just using blue. He’s also been trolling chartreuse colored bait in Oroville with great success. To achieve this simply substitute the blue with chartreuse.
Step 2: Let bait sit in brine for 12-24 hours. Then, drain liquid and place brine in container.
Note: Some anglers choose to add rock salt to the container to remove more liquid out of the bait. This will firm up the bait further.
Step 3: Prior to fishing bait pour a tad of Fire Power on the bait. Use fingers to rub it on the entire bait. The bait is now brined, scented and ready to fish.