Veteran Guide Share Secrets: Curing Prawns For Salmon/Steelhead

By Lee Barkie | 04/01/2013

I’ve been using prawns to catch salmon and steelhead for 20 years. It’s pretty simple: if something small and white comes down those fish are going to smell it and bite it. Over the years I’ve dyed my prawns red, orange and pink, but this year I didn’t have any dye with me and I was forced to try something new.

I got to thinking; FireCure has krill in it and salmon and steelhead are fed krill in hatcheries. I started playing around with different ways to use FireCure to cure my prawns and thought about mixing Nectar and FireCure. Doing so would give me an egg, krill and prawn smell all in one, something steelhead and salmon couldn’t resist. And, I’ll tell you what: I’ve been initiating the fish this year.


In two decades of guiding I’ve learned fish are like us; some days they want protein and others they want carbs. Therefore, I always have eggs and prawns on the boat. Below has been my recipe to success.

Barkie’s Secret Prawn Recipe

Step 1: Accumulate Contents


Raw Prawns or Shrimp
FireCure: Orange, Pink or Red
Pautzke Nectar: Orange or Red
Tupperware Container


Note: Shrimp and or prawns must be raw. I don’t recommend using cooked because when they are cooked the oils disperse. Also, I opt to grab the largest prawns available for two reasons; larger prawns make more bait and are oilier.

Step 2: Cutting Prawns

Peel prawns. Make sure the shell has been removed. Then, take scissors and cut down the bloodline, traveling the length of the prawn. I don’t cut crossways or chunk them. I cut down the bloodline to ensure the dye, cure and scents is distributed evenly through the prawn.


By using this technique the prawn absorbs the cure back into the meat. It will captivate the dye and color the prawn from the inside out. This way the prawn won’t white out and lose color quickly.



Step 3: Curing Time

When curing feel free to use a container or quart size Ziploc. Place your prawns/shrimp in the bag/container. Depending on their thickness I put three to four tablespoons of FireCure per pound of prawn. Orange, red or pink FireCure works depending on the color you want.

After about 20 minutes you’ll notice the cure is pulling the oils and water out of the prawn meat. At this point I add enough Pautzke Nectar to cover the prawns. For example, if you are using red FireCure, you’ll want to use red Nectar. And, if you are using orange FireCure, match it with the orange Nectar. If you are going to use the pink FireCure mix red and orange Nectar to obtain a pink.


Step 4: Shake, Shake, Shake

Shake the bag or seal the container and shake well. This gets the solution submerged in the prawn guaranteeing it cures evenly. You’ll want to shake the solution three times in 12 hours. This allows the prawn to absorb all the scent back into the meat.


Step 5: Let It Work

You can leave prawns in the brine as long as you like. The longer you leave it the better. Personally, I like to leave it for 2-3 days. The longer they soak the better the color is. I’d say minimum time is 12 hours.

Step 6: Strain

After the soak, it’s time to strain. After straining I dust the prawns in powdered borax. This dries them out a little and keeps your fingers from getting stained. Drying them out also makes them milk slower and drier to the touch.


tep 7: Choose A Size, And Go Fishing

I cut my prawns. One rule to follow is in colder you’ll want to use a smaller prawn, most likely a ½ to ¾ inch piece. In warm water, you’ll want to use up to an inch size prawn. Normally, I’ll get a half-hour worth of casting and drifting before any color or scent is lost. However, as soon as they start to fade, I’ll change baits.


After curing them, put the prawns into two bags. In one bag I’ll sprinkle Fire Power (powdered krill). The other I wont. This allows the fish to tell me if they want heavy krill scented prawns or lightly. Just like some days we use a lot of ketchup, some days the fish like a lot of krill.

To learn more about veteran fishing guide Lee Barkie please visit