By Brian Kelly | 12/13/2010
Shrimp are a highly utilized bait in the Pacific Northwest steelhead scene since they are fairly common and are a natural food source for the ocean going steelhead. But, shrimp are beginning to catch on here in the Great Lakes, too, as the chrome transplants from the West Coast have proven to retain their taste for the scent packed crustaceans.

While plain chunks of shrimp or small salad shrimp work well in their natural state, curing the shrimp adds a whole different scent and color dimension that steelhead have found quite attractive. The first curing method to try with shrimp is to soak the chunks in Pautzke’s Nectar till the shrimp absorb the liquid and turn the appropriate color. Nectar is a unique product that is the result of the cooking process the company uses for their jarred salmon eggs. This scent filled juice is available in several colors, with pink being the most productive color, while purple and blue have their place in clear water or when the fish are under pressure.


The shelf life on cooked shrimp is usually 3-5 days if kept cool, while raw shrimp will start to turn bad after a couple days. Keep this in mind when soaking the shrimp in the Nectar and be sure to cure only what you need. Shrimp can be frozen after a bath in the Nectar, but they tend to soften after thawing resulting in numerous baits being lost during the endless casting and drifting.

Another means of preparing shrimp would be to utilize the BorX O’ Fire egg cure. Place the shrimp in a plastic, zip top bag and coat the shrimp with the cure. Shake the bag lightly to ensure all the shrimp are coated and place the bag in the fridge overnight to let the cure do its magic. The resulting baits will turn the color of the cure and have a strong smell that steelhead seem to gobble up. You can use the shrimp straight out of the bag or place them on a layer of paper towel to soak up the excess juice so the baits won’t be quite so messy to fish with. My personal preference is to leave them in the juice as this adds further scent and toughens up the baits.


One final method of enhancing the natural scent of shrimp is to add the Fire Power to untreated shrimp. Adding this krill powder to shrimp provides a powerful scent trail that steelhead find hard to resist. Soaking the shrimp in a mixture of water and Fire Power will produce a stronger smelling bait, but will change the color of the shrimp which is something to be mindful of if the fish are keen on the natural color of the shrimp.

Shrimp are fished most effectively with a float rig as these delicate baits tend to tear off the hook easily when used drift fishing or bottom bouncing. The most interesting phenomenon I have seen so far with cured shrimp is that steelhead attack the bait after mouthing or flat out rejecting other baits such as eggs or live nymphs. Carry a few different variations and colors of cured shrimp this winter steelhead season and you will be impressed by the power these little crustaceans have over wary steelhead.