By Brad Wagner | 07/23/2014
It makes me chuckle when I’m often asked about my “secret” shrimp cure, largely because there’s nothing secret about it. Oftentimes guides, me included, overthink the process of making the perfect bait. Sometimes, I think it’s best to keep it simple. That’s what I’ve tried to do with my shrimp cure. Shrimp are readily available, easy to cure, salmon and steelhead think they are delicious and more anglers are using them daily.
While there are many different kinds of shrimp salmon and steelhead will eat, I prefer coon shrimp. Meanwhile, if you can’t find them don’t hesitate to purchase bay shrimp or prawns, which are available at grocery stores. You may have to cut the larger prawns, but this cure works on all shrimp.
There’s many more in depth cures out there, but here’s what I like to do when I’m short on time. First off, I cover the shrimp in Pautzke’s Fire Brine. I use many colors, but my favorite is red. However, purple and orange are also a must in any salmon or steelhead arsenal.
After submerging the shrimp in the brine, I add a liberal amount of Pautzke Nectar, because let’s face it, what salmon or steelhead doesn’t like shrimp and eggs? The egg juice of Nectar and the flavor of shrimp give you the perfect combo for steelhead and salmon. For salmon, which is what I’m fishing for right now, I add a few sprinkles of Fire Cure. During sockeye season, which is what’s hot now in my area, I add a lot of Liquid Krill.
While some shrimp brines take longer, this soup does the job in roughly 24 hours, leaving you a perfect bait for any situation. Prior to fishing I’ll grab a handful of the shrimp out of the container and place them on ice-cold rock salt. This minimizes the mess in reaching into the brine every time you need a bait, and toughens them up, too.
As with any bait keeping them cold is important. As long as you do, you’ll have a quality bait to use. And, with a massive amount of salmon coming to the Northwest it’s time to prepare your shrimp now. Keep in mind, many of us don’t have eggs to cure yet. Fortunately, with these shrimp there’s no problem. You can still catch fish with shrimp and many times will surprise yourself and be out catching guys using eggs.
Editor’s Note: Brad Wagner operates Bobber Down Guide Service. For more info on his Upper Columbia sockeye trips, going on right now, please visit www.fishwenatchee.com.