Run Prawns for Columbia River Summer Steelhead

By: Bob Kratzer

Summertime on the Columbia River and its tributaries spells opportunity to catch summer steelhead and summer Chinook. Whether from the bank or on a boat this fishery has been dominated by anglers using coon stripe prawns the last decade. Many commercial outfits produce prawns and sell them at retailers, but most carry a hefty price tag. To save money and create a better product I cure my own. In this blog I’m going to explain how to make high quality prawns that will fill your limits on a regular basis.

You can produce dry and wet brine prawns. The dry brine is the easiest and works well for salmon. The wet brine is more detailed and time consuming and works better for steelhead. The good news is most of the bigger tackle shops now sell uncured coon stripe prawns in pound boxes. They are more readily available than they used to be.


  1. Put ½ pound of coon stripe prawns in a large plastic container with a good lid
  2. Add 1 cup of Red or Pink Fire Cure
  3. Add ½ cup sea salt
  4. Roll container around to mix cure and prawns and refrigerate. Roll container every 12 hours until prawns become full colored and firm. Should take 24 hours to completely cure.



  1. Take quart jar and put 1/4 cup sea salt
  2. Add 1/4 cup sugar
  3. Add ½ cup Pink BorX O Fire
  4. Add tablespoon of Pink Fire Dye
  5. Fill jar with prawns
  6. Top jar off with Pink Fire Brine up to ½ inch from top of jar
  7. Roll jar around mixing all contents.
  8. Refrigerate and roll and mix every 12 hours
  9. Take a week for total cure

I like to add various other scents to each cure to enhance the bite. At certain times one scent is better then the other and can make or break your day. Fire Power is one of the best additives, but anise, garlic and vanilla all have their time.


If bank fishing the Columbia River plunking is the number one technique whereas anchoring is best from a boat. Use a two-foot dropper to your weight. This can be from 2-6 ounces. Then add a three-foot leader with a #6 Spin-n-glo or a Wobble Glo with 1/0 Octopus hook and a trailer hook. You can hook the prawn curled or straighten them out. Which works best varies from day to day. I usually do both. As the bites come I figure out which one is getting bit the most and switch all the baits to that.

Summer runs are pouring into the Columbia now. Summer Chinook are on their heels. The bite will improve in late June and July. Get your prawns, cure them, get out on the water and enjoy some the Pacific Northwest’s great fishing.

Editor’s Note: Bob Kratzer operates Anglers Guide Service. For more info on his Columbia River summer steelhead and summer Chinook trips please visit