By: Duane Inglin
It’s almost fall in the Pacific Northwest and salmon have started entering rivers in effort to reach spawning grounds. Typically, once salmon reach our rivers they have mature eggs. Veteran egg curers know mature eggs can be loose in the skein. This is because the skin surrounding the eggs has started to break down as salmon creep closer to spawning. The good news is when cured properly mature eggs fish well.
Take a look at the photo below: this is a tight skein exhibited by the amount of skin that still surrounds the eggs on the skein.
In this blog I’m going to focus on curing eggs like this. In my view the process creates the perfect bait for fall in river salmon. The egg will have everything a fall salmon wants: sulfites, deep red colors, durability and scent. It has the necessities and is what salmon respond to.
Tight skein and mature salmon eggs make ideal salmon bait. However, I want the egg to be durable so it can handle our PNW rivers. As a base cure I start with Fire Cure. Meanwhile, to extend the egg’s durability I utilize the properties of Fire Brine. In this process I turn to Liquid Krill for added scent and Fire Dye for long-lasting, deep-red coloring.
One additional note to help you recognize tight skein eggs vs lose is the amount of actual eggs (berries) that fall off your egg skein. As you can see very few eggs have detached from the skein. Intact skin and few eggs coming off the skein equal a good quality tight egg skein.
As always creating a quality bait starts with proper prep. Remove all the blood from your skein. Do this by simply putting a small cut in the main vein that runs along the inside of the skien. Cut the vein towards the end of the skein and with the flat edge of a knife or scissors, push the blood down the vein to the opening and wick the blood away with a paper towel.
These are tight skeins. To ensure even curing throughout the entire skein butterfly the skein. This is no different than butterflying a cut of meat.
With the egg side up simply run a sharp knife laterally down the middle of the skein. Make a couple passes down the middle and press lightly. Only separate your skein approximately three quarters of the way. Don’t cut the skein all the way through. These are coho skeins, so butterflying is appropriate. If you have large Chinook skeins cut all the way through, separating the skein in half.
Adding sand shrimp or ghost shrimp to your cure is effective. Natural baits and their oils added to the curing process can be a game changer. Never add manufactured oils or scents during your bait curing as it interrupts or halts the curing process. I find that natural baits, such as sand or ghost shrimp do not.
With scissors simply cut the sand shrimp into small pieces and spread them out on blood free, butterflied prepped eggs. Notice the eggs are laid onto paper towels egg side up, skin side down. When it comes to the sand or ghost shrimp cut them up, shell, guts, oils and all.
Next sprinkle on Fire Cure. Remember, this is a sulfite-based cure. A little goes a long way. To much cure and sulfites can over-cure and ruin eggs. A light dusting (as seen here) will do the job. With your eggs on paper towels pick them up and dump them into a container. Doing this will expose the skin side once in the container.
Now sprinkle a light dusting of Fire Cure on the skin side of your eggs. This varies depending on how many egg skeins you are curing. Two skeins will not require as much cure as eight. If you use the same application amount per skein there is no need to measure.
Now dump in the Red Fire Brine. One half to a full bottle depending on the number of skeins you are curing.
Mixing Fire Brine and Fire Cure produces red eggs. If you want a deep red egg add one tablespoon of Red Fire Dye. You can leave this step out if you chose. That depends on how deep or dark red you prefer to make baits.
On additional scent and or bite stimulant to add is Pautzke’s Liquid Krill. Again, this is one that you can choose to leave out as it doesn’t add or subtract from the curing process. It does, however, add an additional scent that salmon are drawn to. Use the Liquid Krill as it mixes much better in your wet brine solution. If you cure enough eggs to utilize a full bottle of Fire Brine I suggest using a whole bottle of Liquid Krill.
Now with a gloved hand gently mix the eggs and liquid brine thoroughly.
Twelve to 18 hours in the brine mix is sufficient. For the first six to eight hours allow the skeins to float in the brine egg side up, skin side down. After eight hours, turn the skeins over so the egg side is down. This ensures equal curing and color throughout the entire skein.
Next, take the skeins out of the liquid brine and place them into a colander allowing the excess liquid to drip away from the eggs. Thirty minutes is usually long enough.
Next place the skeins into paper towel lined containers. You can stack multiple layers in the container. Just ensure that you have three to four paper towels between each layer. This will help pull the extra liquid form the egg skeins. Now cover the top layer with a single paper towel and place your egg trays into the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
Once the refrigerator time is complete the skeins have a different texture to them, almost a rubbery consistency. No worries. When you cut into the bait these eggs milk out great and put out a great scent trail. And, they will be durable and last for several casts.
For storage once your cure process is complete place the skeins into Ziplocs or mason jars. You can store them in the refrigerator for short term. Long term storage is best in the freezer.
Give this Fire Cure, Sand Shrimp, Fire Brine combination a try. You’ll be pleased with the results.
Editor’s Note: Duane Inglin, is the creator and host of Fish Hunt Northwest. FHN airs LIVE every Thursday evening 7:00-9:00 pm West Coast Time, simulcast on their
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