By: Mike Ainsworth

When our rivers were low and clear, and the fish had lockjaw a few weeks ago I had to adjust my techniques to get bites. This was during a time when salmon were being stubborn and weren’t reacting to traditional techniques and baits.

To attempt to lure salmon into feeding I started tipping my lures with brined/dyed squid. The goal was to entice salmon to strike when they otherwise may not have. During the slow period salmon were following the lures and not biting or simply not interested at all. Luckily, my experiment worked. Since then I’ve been practicing this technique daily when using hardware. When the bite is tough it good to experiment and that’s what I did.

I’m sure many anglers have done this for years, but this was something new to me. It can be applied for salmon as we’ve done and even when targeting trout and steelhead. Squid is natural bait that salmon are used to eating in the ocean. A lot of the baits and lures we use are already meant to imitate squid. By adding the squid scent I was hoping to provoke a natural reaction. It’s like adding scent to a lure, but the squid doesn’t come off.

Squid is durable bait. Whether tipping it on spinners, jigs, spoons, or wrapping it on plugs instead of herring/sardines. You can even add it to eggs for extra scent and movement squid is perfect bait. It’s easy to find, long lasting and affordable, but most important is the fish react positively to it.

Brining squid and making them attractive to trout, salmon and steelhead is about as easy as it gets. It’s fool proof. I do it two ways. Depending on the amount of time I have I either use Fire Dye and dye them on the spot or Fire Brine them if I have time for an overnight soak.

The On the Water Application

If I’m low on time and want a certain color I’ll cut the squid up into desired pieces and squirt Fire Dye into a Ziploc. The Fire Dye stains the squid in minutes and doesn’t wash out. This method is the quickest, but doesn’t brine the bait, rather colors it exclusively.

Overnight Soak

If I have time to prepare bait the night before I cut the squid into the size strips that I want for the next days application by placing them in a Ziploc and pour in Fire Brine and Fire Dye. You only need enough brine/dye to submerge the squid. Then let it soak overnight to take the color and toughen up the bait. I like to cut the squid the night before if I can using a very sharp fillet knife to achieve the size and thickness that I am looking for. If using for travel or steelhead, I will cut them into longer straps.

We know squid is already tough bait. Meanwhile, adding the Fire Brine makes it tougher and more durable when casting long distances. After brining it the squid also stays on the hook longer. This is my preferred method when I have more time.

Why Color?

I’m sure squid is effective right out of the bag. However, just like we buy different color spoons, stickbaits, spinners and jigs multiple squid colors increases odd, too.

I prefer to dye/brine colors of squid to match the lure color. On the other hand, mixing and matching colors with lures can be productive, too.

*Special Note: Even if you aren’t near an ocean squid is available. I purchase frozen squid in the grocery store. Local seafood markets stock it, too. Fresh or frozen squid works.

Editor’s Note: Guide Mike Ainsworth operates First Light Guide Service. To learn more about his guided salmon and steelhead trips please visit or